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Maj. Margaret Witt (and Lady Gaga) vs. DADT

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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September 13, 2010

Today marks the start of the trial in a landmark case challenging the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The case was brought by Maj. Margaret Witt, a decorated U.S. Air Force flight nurse, who was dismissed under DADT in 2006 — one of the more than 13,500 men and women whose military careers were prematurely terminated since the policy first became law in the early 1990s. Maj. Witt is being represented by the ACLU of Washington in challenging her DADT firing.

Witt’s challenge has already led to an important ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 2008. The court ruled that the Air Force must prove that discharging Maj. Witt was necessary for purposes of military readiness and that her conduct hurt morale and unit cohesion. It is under this so-called “Witt Standard” that the trial in U.S. District Court in Tacoma will be conducted. Maj. Witt is expected to testify early next week (either Monday the 20th or Tuesday the 21st).

The military has yet to provide (and is no doubt totally unable to provide) any evidence that Maj. Witt’s sexual orientation or conduct ever caused a problem in the performance of her military duties (in other words, the standard of review for her case under the 9th Circuit’s ruling). To the contrary, the ACLU has submitted declarations from her military colleagues testifying that her forced absence is what has harmed her unit’s morale, thus turning the twisted logic of DADT on its bigoted head.

Be sure to check this blog for updates during this important trial.

Additionally, in the world of pop culture, Lady Gaga showed her support for repealing DADT at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles by having an escort of prominent men and women whose military careers were derailed because of the policy.