One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Another Positive Court Ruling on DADT

From the Washington Post courtesy of the Post-Gazette.

A federal judge on Friday ordered the reinstatement of an Air Force nurse discharged from the military under the “don't ask, don't tell” policy that forbids openly gay service members.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton told a packed Tacoma, Wash., courtroom that evidence at a six-day trial showed that former Air Force Reserve Maj. Margaret Witt was an “exemplary officer” who should be “reinstated at the earliest possible moment.”

“Good flight nurses are hard to find,” he said in a 15-page opinion.

In a statement, Ms. Witt said she was proud of her career. “Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there,” she said.

Ms. Witt was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the ruling was the first time that a judge had ordered a reinstatement of a service member discharged under “don't ask, don't tell.”

Judge Leighton had dismissed Ms. Witt's first challenge to her 2006 dismissal. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told him to reconsider under a standard of review that put the burden on the military to show why Ms. Witt's discharge was necessary to the government's interest. In effect, the appeals court ruling said judges should be examining the military's decision to discharge individual service members — not whether the law itself was justified.

“The evidence produced at trial overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the suspension and discharge of Margaret Witt did not significantly further the important government interest in advancing unit morale and cohesion,” Judge Leighton concluded.

The erosion of DADT may come case by case as discharged military seek redress through the Courts and the military is unable to meet this criteria of “furthering government interest”.

The same government which refused to debate this on the Senate Floor can't make a substantial court case to show why this policy is necessary.  The Republicans use rhetoric of fear, hatred and intolerance to rally their base and the Democrats expect their progressive base aka “us” to be content with the drip drip drip approach. 

Do we really expect the ACLU to take up every discharge case?  Does that mean our campaign contributions are better invested in judicial races and legal organizations than advocacy groups?  I mean that ACLU is accomplishing something.

A few more injured members of our military will receive top notch nursing care when the best and brightest are rightfully restored to “our” armed services.

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