Opening Arguments, Testimony Heard in Margaret Witt DADT Trial

Opening arguments began yesterday in Major Margaret Witt’s challenge of her military discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Witt The AP reports:

Witt sat in the courtroom Monday amid her supporters, including Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a fighter pilot from Idaho who is fighting his own discharge by the U.S. Air Force.

Peter Phipps, a Justice Department lawyer representing the Air Force, insisted during his opening statement that Witt’s conduct necessitated her firing. That included a long-term relationship with a civilian woman, an affair with a married woman and two earlier relationships with fellow servicewomen, Witt acknowledged in a May deposition. A 2004 e-mail from the married woman’s husband to the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper, prompted the investigation into Witt’s sexuality. Witt remains in a relationship with that woman, whose husband divorced her.

“By committing adultery, she compromised her integrity and her ability to lead,” Phipps said. “Plaintiff set an example of a disregard for Air Force policies.”

Witt’s discharge therefore eliminated a risk to unit cohesion and morale, he added. He said the support she has received from colleagues is irrelevant; the law’s constitutionality doesn’t depend on the views of her friends.

Lt. Col. Vincent Oda testified that Witt’s firing, which came at a time that there was a shortage of flight nurses, harmed the military: “We were at war at the time. It was the loss of an able flight nurse is what that was.”

Manzella Other impacted military personnel testified as well:

The court also heard from other service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” One, former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, said that when his superiors first investigated him, he gave them pictures of himself and his boyfriend kissing to make it clear he didn’t want to hide anything. The result of that initial inquiry? “No evidence” of homosexuality, Manzella said. He served almost two more years before the Army kicked him out in 2008.

Retired Master Sgt. James Schaffer, who led Witt’s unit, testified that “gay and lesbian members of his Air Force Reserve unit bore no stigma.”

The Seattle Times reports:

So in 2004, he was stunned to learn of an Air Force decision to suspend one member of his unit, Maj. Margaret Witt, for homosexual conduct that violated the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“I felt it was a dishonorable act on the part of the Air Force,” Schaffer testified Monday as the leadoff witness in a U.S. District Court trial to determine whether Witt, who was eventually forced into retirement, should be reinstated with the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.


  1. stephen says

    “By committing adultery, she compromised her integrity and her ability to lead,”

    So, I guess we can look forward to dismissals of all service members that have committed adultery???

    Make it stop, already. What’s wrong with our nation?!

  2. Steve says

    Having an affair was unprofessional, but if the military kicked out everyone who did that, there would be serious problems. People are rarely fired for adultery alone. It depends on the circumstances, but there are other punishments available. Relieve of command or a letter of reprimand. It may lead the career into a dead end, but not outright dismissal. In many cases, it’s just an open secret. I would wish they they get some witnesses to point at that hypocrisy.

    And you can bet that her discharge papers don’t list that as the reason. It’s mere an after the fact rationalization from anther scumbag lawyer.

    I also love this part:
    “Altogether, he said, he knew of 12 gays and lesbians among the more than 100 members of the unit, including two dating couples within the unit.”

    From what I read, the medical corps seems to have a relatively high percentage of gays and lesbians compared to many other branches.

  3. Chrissi says

    She was a MAJOR and as a MAJOR she should be held to a higher standard. I agree, there are a lot of Soldiers that have committed adultery, but how many of those cases were actually brought to the chain of command, not as many as you may think. And a lower enlisted committing adultery should not be viewed the same as a MAJOR doing the same crime, especially if that Private or Specialist is aware that his Leadership is getting away with things such as adultery, officer/enlisted relationships, Leaders sleeping with their subordinates, etc; When we allow someone in a leadership position to violate UCMJ and get away with it, this DOES degrade morale in the military. I’ve SEEN it happen and it NEEDS to stop.

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