U.S. Air Force Major Margaret Witt, a
flight nurse who was discharged in 2006 for violating “Don't Ask,
Don't Tell,” the 17-year-old law that bans gay and bisexual troops
from serving openly, will rejoin the military even as the Obama
administration appeals a federal judge's ruling. Witt becomes the
first openly gay person to return to the military by court order
after being discharged under DADT.
After a six-day trial, U.S. District
Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton ruled in September that Witt's sexual
orientation had not negatively impacted her unit's morale or cohesion
as the military had argued.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration
appealed the ruling but did not seek a stay of the judge's order
reinstating Witt to her unit.
“I am thrilled to be able to serve in
the Air Force again,” Witt said in a statement. “The men and
women in the unit are like family members to me, and I've been
waiting a long time to rejoin them. Thousands of men and women who
are gay and lesbian honorably serve this country in our military.
Many people forget that the U.S. military is the most diverse in the
world – we are extremely versed in adaptation.”
“Wounded personnel have never asked
me about my sexual orientation,” she added. “They were just glad
to see me.”
Witt was expelled from the military for
“homosexual conduct” after her commanders learned she was
involved in a lesbian relationship.
government is also appealing a California court's ruling that found
the policy in violation of the constitutional rights of gay troops.
In a statement released Tuesday, White
House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the administration's
decision to pursue an appeal in the Witt case. He
said the case “shows why Congress must act to end this misguided
policy” and insisted the administration is unwavering in its
commitment to end the law.
On Monday, Gibbs
joined a growing chorus of leaders warning that the failure to
legislatively repeal the law during the lame-duck session would leave
courts to decide the issue.