"There is no evidence that wounded troops care about the sexual orientation of the flight nurse or medical technician tending to their wounds," declared a judge, ordering Margaret Witt's reinstatement in another legal victory against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Unlike the recent case that broadly declared "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional, the ruling in Washington State Friday applies only to Margaret Witt, an Air Force nurse who was discharged after her lover's husband wrote to the Air Force. But it provides more momentum for chipping away at the policy, which a majority of Americans opposes.
"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," wrote Judge Ronald Leighton. "To the contrary, the actions taken against Major Witt had the opposite effect."
In fact, members of her squadron even testified that they would be happy to have Witt back, though the government said it wasn't relevant because military decisions aren't made by referendum. (Unless, of course, you're surveying members about how they feel about the gays, as the Pentagon is doing right now.)
Politico notes that once again, the Obama administration was put in a corner, defending a law it says it opposes:
In the awkward defense of Witt's discharge, government lawyers encouraged Leighton to consider polls showing generalized concerns about working or living with homosexuals, but the judge said it would not have been proper for him to do that given the appeals court's instruction that he examine the specific circumstances of Witt's specific case.
The judge made additional remarks to Witt afterwards in which he noted,
Today, you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and, hopefully soon, the political branches of government. You said something in the trial that resonated with me. You said the best thing to come out of all this turmoil is the reaction of your parents when you told them of your sexual orientation: their love and support for you.
For her part, Witt said, "Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me."