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VA Nurse Accused of Harassing Lesbian Patient Removed

VA Nurse Accused of Harassing Lesbian Patient Removed

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A nurse at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center who was accused of spouting off antigay comments to a lesbian patient in November has been fired.

Retired Marine lance corporal Esther Garatie (pictured) had sought help at the VA for severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai reportedly told Garatie that her emotional problems stemmed from her sexual orientation.

"She sat down and looked at me, and her first question was, 'Are you a lesbian?'" Garatie said in a statement published by the Dallas Voice. "Her second question to me was, 'Have you asked God into your heart? Have you been saved by Jesus Christ?'"

Garatie and a friend started a petition on Change.org to have the nurse removed from her position, and after two months and over 19,000 signatures of support, they have gotten their wish.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center, confirmed to Change.org that Pandithurai's employment had been terminated.

"The board was able to substantiate material portions of the veteran's claims," wrote Monica Smith. "VA North Texas Health Care System will continue to provide an environment where veterans can receive the physical and emotional healing that they desire and deserve. As such, we remain committed to respecting diversity and providing the best possible care to all veterans. Our commitment to equal rights remains strong as we practice our core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence. Ms. Pandithurai will retire from federal service effective January 21, 2012."

Garatie's friend and co-petition author, Jessica Gerson, praised the move. "It's reassuring for me and for the thousands of people who stood with Esther to know that the Dallas VA Medical Center takes allegations like this seriously," said Gerson. "But more importantly, gay and lesbian veterans like my friend Esther should feel comforted that the VA system has become a little more safe and accepting thanks to the removal of this homophobic nurse."

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