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Eye On Olympia

Don’t ask, don’t tell case…

More from this morning’s paper:

OLYMPIA - The military cannot automatically discharge people because they’re gay, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in a case involving an Air Force nurse from Spokane.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived Maj. Margaret Witt’s constitutional challenge to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on sexually active gays and lesbians. The court overruled a federal judge in Tacoma who’d thrown the case out.

The ruling doesn’t get Witt back into the Air Force. It called for more fact-finding about Witt’s situation.

But in what could prove to be a critical turning point, the judges also indicated that the longstanding military policy merits stricter constitutional scrutiny due to a landmark 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

No other court, according to the Air Force, has ever said that.

“I’m absolutely thrilled by the court’s recognition that I can’t be discharged without somehow proving that I was somehow hurting unit cohesion and morale,” Witt said Wednesday.

She argues the opposite: that removing an experienced, much-decorated flight nurse in the middle of a war hurt her medical unit’s ability to serve troops. Years after being forced to leave, she’s still in touch with members of her unit and has been invited back for their 50th anniversary celebration.

“I still miss my Air Force family and would love the opportunity to fulfill my duties and be there to help anybody that needs it,” she said.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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