In late September, a federal court ordered the United States Air Force to reinstate retired Maj. Margaret Witt, a highly skilled and decorated flight nurse who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Tonight, the Department of Justice has appealed that ruling, reports MetroWeekly.
In a brief filing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice filed the formal documents to announce that it plans to appeal the trial judge's order in Witt v. U.S. Department of the Air Force. On Sept. 24, U.S. District Court Ronald Leighton ruled that the Air Force's discharge of Major Margaret Witt under DADT violated her constitutional rights. He wrote: "[T]he Court concludes that DADT, when applied to Major Margaret Witt, does not further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion. ... Application of DADT therefore violates Major Witt’s substantive due process rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. She should be reinstated at the earliest possible moment."
Major Margaret Witt joined the Air Force in 1987, served in the Persian Gulf and received multiple decorations. The Air Force used her photo in recruitment materials for more than a decade. Witt was discharged in 2006 after her commanders discovered she was in a lesbian relationship with a civilian. The action "left her less than a year short of the 20-year service requirement" to obtain a full Air Force pension.
The Justice Department "did not seek a stay" of the lower court ruling, which suggests Maj. Witt could possibly serve during the appeal, reports the AP.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released this statement:
"Today, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in a case involving a legal challenge to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, as the Department traditionally does when acts of Congress have been held unconstitutional," Gibbs wrote. "This filing in no way diminishes the President’s -- and his Administration’s -- firm commitment to achieving a legislative repeal of DADT this year. Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy. In recent weeks, the President and other Administration officials have been working with the Senate to move forward with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of DADT, during the lame duck."