Another DADT Trial Begins Tomorrow

The trial of former Major Margaret Witt begins tomorrow, just days after a judge in California found "Don't As, Don't Tell" to be unconstitutional. You may recall that in 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stood by its ruling to reinstate her case that challenged DADT. Witt had served as an Air Force reservist flight nurse for 20 years until someone called the Air Force and told them she had a live-in female partner.

The AP reports:

Witt Witt was a member of a squadron based at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma when she was suspended in 2004 and honorably discharged. She challenged the constitutionality of her dismissal, and a federal appeals court panel ruled in 2008 that the military could not discharge service members for being gay unless it proved that the firing furthered military readiness.

The case was sent back to U.S. District Court in Tacoma for Judge Robert Leighton to determine whether Witt's firing met that standard. Several of Witt's former colleagues are expected to testify that she was an excellent nurse, and it was her dismissal – not her sexual orientation – that caused morale problems in the unit.

Justice Department lawyers representing the Air Force note that the case has put them in the position of defending a law neither the president nor the department itself believes is good policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also favors repealing the 1993 law, which prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but allows the discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered to be engaging in homosexual activity. Government lawyers nevertheless insist Witt's firing was justified – and that the panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not know the extent of her conduct when it sided with her in 2008. That conduct included a long-term relationship with a civilian woman, an affair with a woman who was married at the time and two earlier relationships with fellow servicewomen, Witt acknowledged in a deposition in May.

The trial is expected to last 7 days.