After a six day trial,  a federal judge in Tacoma Washington ruled yesterday that homosexuality cannot be a bar to military service.  Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that Margaret Witt should be reinstated to the Air Force Reserves after having been discharged for being a lesbian.

Witt claimed that her discharge under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy violated both her procedural and substantive due process rights under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The military had argued at the trial that allowing openly lesbian or gay people to serve would have a “negative impact on unit cohesion, morale, order or discipline.,” but the judge found just the opposite:

it was Major Witt’s suspension and ultimate discharge that caused a loss of morale throughout the squadron.  In addition, several other former service members testified about their military experience as closeted gays or lesbians and the positive reaction of their fellow servicemen and women once they acknowledged their sexual orientation.

Major Witt was a model officer whose sexual activities hundreds of miles away from base did not affect her unit until the military initiated discharge proceedings under DADT and even then, it was her suspension pursuant to DADT, not her homosexuality, that damaged unit cohesion.

The full opinion is here.  It’s short and worth reading.

At a point when the Obama Administration likely sees itself unable to garner sufficient political muscle to legislatively change homophobic policies such as DADT, it is good that the federal courts are doing the work for them.  But as Nan Hunter points out in her thoughtful analysis of the Witt case, the Administration faces some difficult political decisions about whether, and if so how, it will appeal the Witt trial court’s ruling.

Cudos to the lawyers at the ACLU who litigated the case, and to Margaret Witt for bringing the case.


  1. A WA federal court has reinstated a lesbian to the Air Force, ruling that DADT violated her due process rights. http://j.mp/afiNRG

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