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JIC Post:From 365Gay(Seattle, Washington) For 19 years Major Margaret Witt served the Air Force with distinction. She served in the Persian Gulf, received medals, and was featured in a recruitment flyer for the Air Force Nurse Corps.But after commanders received an anonymous tip in 2004 that she is a lesbian and in a long-term relationship the military began an investigation that led to her discharge under 'don't ask, don't tell' the military's ban on gays serving openly.This week Witt began a lawsuit to get back her job. The suit, filed on by the ACLU on her behalf, charges the military acted unconstitutionally and seeks an injunction reversing the discharge.'Don't ask, don't tell' requires that a commander receive "credible evidence" that a service member is lesbian or gay before beginning an investigation."Unfortunately, however, the definition of 'credible evidence' is determined by the command," Steve Ralls, a spokesperson for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network told 365Gay.com."SLDN has represented numerous service members who were investigated based on questionable information, including anonymous emails and accusations made by individuals who were clearly untrustworthy," Ralls said. "'Don't ask, don't tell' has become an effective weapon in the armed forces, where rumor, innuendo and hearsay can mean the end of an otherwise promising career.Witt joined the Air Force in 1986. She served in the Persian Gulf and in 2003 was awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for her action in saving the life of a Department of Defense employee who had collapsed aboard a government-chartered flight from Bahrain.In 1993, she was selected to be the “poster child” for the Air Force Nurse Corps recruitment flyer.Most recently she was a flight nurse and operating room nurse assigned to McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, Washington.It was while at McChord that her commanding officer began an investigation into her private life after receiving "a tip" from an unidentified source that Witt was in a relationship with another woman, a fact she does not deny.In November 2004, Major Witt was placed on unpaid leave and told she could no longer participate in any military duties, pending formal separation proceedings. In March 2006, the Air Force informed Major Witt that she was being administratively discharged on grounds of homosexual conduct.“I joined the Air Force because I wanted to serve my country. I have loved being in the military – my fellow airmen have been my family. I am proud of my career and want to continue doing my job,” said Witt. “Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there,” she added.“Major Margaret Witt has been an exemplary member of the military with a distinguished record of service. To discharge her simply because of her sexual orientation is unfair and does not make our military stronger,” said ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.In a previous ACLU case, Lobsenz represented Army Sgt. Perry Watkins, who challenged his dismissal from the military for being gay. In 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that, as a matter of fairness, the Army could not discharge Watkins.Twelve lesbian and gay former members of the military are involved in a federal suit in Boston seeking reinstatement. Represented by SLDN oral arguments were held last July and a decision is pending.
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