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Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Other DADT News: Witt 'Likely' To Rejoin Her Unit Soon!

Major Witt, of Witt v Department of the Air Force fame, is "likely" to rejoin her unit in January or even earlier.

Witt won her case for reinstatement in September but was blocked from rejoining the Air Force until the government decided whether to appeal.

Last week, the government finally decided to appeal the case, but did not seek an immediate injunction prohibiting Witt from rejoining her unit -- ostensibly because she does not currently meet other eligibility requirements.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Witt said that she only needs about 50 more hours of nursing work to fullfill the Air Force's eligibility requirement of 180 hours, something she hopes to complete soon.

More importantly James Lobsenz, part of the ACLU legal team representing Major Witt, said at Tuesday's press conference that in the event the Major does regain her eligibility:

... Peter Phipps, the Air Force's lead attorney, told him yesterday that it was "unlikely" that he would ask for a stay.

So that is great news! Assuming we can take that statement at face value.

Soon, we all hope, an open lesbian will be in the Armed Forces, the first time in more than a decade that an openly homosexual man or woman will have been legally serving his or her country without fear of (sudden) dismissal.

Witt's legal victory is solely personal. It does not mean that any other member of the armed services can 'come out' even within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, which created the so-called Witt Standard in prior precedings in this case.

However anyone subject to dismissal because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell within the Ninth Circuit will have a strong case to be made for an injunction preventing said dismissal until a court case on their specific challenge can be heard. This is how events have unfolded for Colonel Fehrenbach. On August 16th the Air Force entered into an agreement giving Fehrenbach the right to schedule a hearing for an injunction against dismissal before discharging him.

If Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not done away with and/or the US Military continue to seek to discharge gay servicemembers in the Ninth District, I would expect a number of such injunctions to be sought.

But for the moment, let's wish Major Witt a speedy return!

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