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Discharged Lesbian in the United States Air Force Takes the Stand in Washington

Discharged Lesbian in the United States Air Force Takes the Stand in Washington

Decorated Air Force Reserve flight nurse former Major Margaret Witt was discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2007 after three years of being put on suspension and one year short of receiving her pension compensation.  Witt took the stand yesterday in Tacoma, Washington in an effort to continue her action to sue the United States Air Force in order to be reinstated. Her voice cracked as she lamented, "It's what I've spent over half my life training to do. I miss being able to be the one that [the] soldier looks at and I can do something for him. I'm not complete and it kills me not [to] be there."

Decorated Air Force Reserve flight nurse former Major Margaret Witt was discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2007 after three years of being put on suspension and one year short of receiving her pension compensation.

Witt took the stand yesterday in Tacoma, Washington in an effort to continue her action to sue the United States Air Force in order to be reinstated. Her voice cracked as she lamented, "It's what I've spent over half my life training to do. I miss being able to be the one that [the] soldier looks at and I can do something for him. I'm not complete and it kills me not [to] be there."

Witt is on record as having said, “Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there."

Under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Witt could’ve been discharged just for sharing with a friend or two that she was indeed a lesbian. So, she did what she thought was best to keep her job – she kept it quiet and only shared her personal life with one or two people on the unit. Unfortunately for Witt, the military had its own agenda and would use this action against her.

The U.S. District Court in Tacoma held a hearing on Monday in which the arguments became a bit heavy on both sides. During the prickly cross-examination concerning Witt, Justice Department lawyer Peter Phipps asked her if she considered adultery to be against the military’s standards of integrity. Phipps’ exact words to Witt were, “You agree that adultery is not consistent with high standards of integrity, correct?" To which Witt replied a somber, “Yes.” The subject of the adultery question was a married civilian woman with whom Witt had a sexual relationship with while in the military. The military’s defense in the trial at hand is that Witt was rightfully discharged for having an affair and not because of her being a lesbian. Witt’s attorneys disagreed and argued that no evidence was forthcoming that showed that allowing gays to serve openly would hurt unit cohesion. 

The Justice Department also quipped that Witt put her friends on her unit in an awkward position by telling them that she was a lesbian knowing that at the same time that they would be forced to choose between the values of the military and their friendships with her. Meanwhile, several of Witt’s close colleagues from the unit testified that they didn’t care about her sexual orientation and that the firing actually hurt morale in the squadron as a result.

Witt was a decorated member of the military before she was fired. She was once featured on the Air Force Nurse Corps recruitment poster (in 1993). She also received an Air Force Commendation Medal for saving the life of a Defense Department employee who collapsed aboard a flight from Bahrain in 2003.

Closing arguments are expected to occur on Wednesday.

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Sarah Toce