Down in Tacoma this week, a trial is under way to determine whether Major Margaret Witt, formerly assigned to McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, should have been kicked out of the military in 2006 after a two-year investigation discovered that she is a lesbian. It's the latest test of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly.
The trial was ordered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008, which required that, in order to discharge people for being gay, the military must make a case-by-case determination that each discharged person is harmful to military readiness. That's going to be hard to prove. Witt had an 18-year career in the air force, earning awards and commendations (and even being used on a military recruiting poster) before she was suddenly kicked out.
"We are presenting evidence that she was very popular with her fellow soldiers, and that her sexual orientation was not an issue," says Doug Honig, spokesman for the ACLU of Washington, which is representing Witt. "What really hurt morale was her being dismissed. It shows the hypocrisy of DADT and stands the logic on its head."
The U.S. Justice wDepartment, arguing for the military, will attempt to show that Witt's homosexuality did harm military readiness, and thus necessitated her dismissal under DADT.
Witt's trial comes at a moment of increasing pressure to scrap DADT altogether. A federal judge in California ruled on September 9 that DADT is unconstitutional, and the U.S. Senate is planning to vote on whether to officially roll back the policy in the near future. While Witt's case cannot result in any formal order to nullify DADT nationally, amid other pressures to repeal the policy, it could provide a high-profile example to show how DADT has become absurd in practice.
Witt is expected to testify early in the week of September 20.