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Witt Trial Enters Day 2 

Witt Trial Enters Day 2 


Just days after a federal judge in California ruled "don't ask, don't tell" unconstitutional, the case of discharged U.S. Air Force major Margaret Witt continues in Tacoma, Wash., on Tuesday in what is expected to be a seven-day trial.

Witt, an accomplished flight nurse who was discharged in 2006 after she was outed, sued to be reinstated.

As in the July trial of the Log Cabin Republicans suit challenging DADT in federal court, Witt's legal team, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, has included discharged service members in its roster of witnesses.

Witnesses have included Army sergeant Darren Manzella, a New York native who was deployed in 2004 to Iraq, where he provided emergency treatment in Baghdad, earning him the Combat Medical Badge. Manzella was discharged in 2008 after two tours of duty in the Middle East.

"In the Army, honesty and integrity are very important," Manzella said in court, according to The News Tribune of Tacoma. " It was very difficult for me to sit there and lie about something. We had developed such trust. I felt like every time I lied to them or wasn't completely honest, I was chipping away at that trust."

Last week U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips wrote in an 85-page opinion that the DADT statute, passed by Congress in 1993, violates both the First Amendment and due process rights of gay service members. Phillips further ordered a permanent injunction barring enforcement of DADT. The Justice Department has until September 23 to object to the injunction.

"The evidence at trial demonstrated that [DADT] does not further significantly the Government's important interests in military readiness or unit cohesion, nor is it necessary to further those interests," Phillips wrote.

Witt's trial, like the Log Cabin Republicans case in California, is a nonjury trial.

In 2008 the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit overturned a dismissal of Witt's case and ruled that the government must show that discharging a gay service members is necessary to preserve morale and unit cohesion.

"Maj. Witt's case illustrates once again the baseless nature of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project, said in a statement. "The policy is founded on the idea that openly lesbian or gay service members will detract from morale, but the evidence here shows that Maj. Witt's colleagues didn't care that she's a lesbian. Congress should not wait for more courts to rule, it should finish the job and repeal this law."

Read the full article here.
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