Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Case Of Maj. Margaret Witt Shows It's Time To End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The case of Major Margaret Witt, who is suing the military due to her discharge under "don't ask, don't tell," demonstrates everything that is wrong with the policy:

For 17 years, Maj. Margaret Witt rose steadily through the Air Force and Air Force Reserves, winning plaudits from colleagues, strong performance reviews from superiors and service medals from the department. A flight nurse, she treated wounded troops during Desert Storm and was featured in Air Force promotional materials for years.

Major Witt is also a lesbian.

To hide her sexual orientation, she skipped military functions where dates were invited. She dodged questions about her personal life. And she avoided inviting colleagues home, lest some possession — a book, a photograph — might tip them off.

“You can’t be honest,” Major Witt, 46, said in a recent interview. “I didn’t want to answer questions, even to say what my weekend plans were.”

Her efforts to maintain a low profile ended in 2004, when the jilted husband of a woman Major Witt had started to date sent a note to the Air Force disclosing her orientation. After an investigation and hearing, the Air Force discharged her in 2007 under the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

...Major Witt’s lawyers say former colleagues will testify that she was an effective leader and that her discharge, not her presence, hurt morale in her Reserves unit, the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. Several of the witnesses say they suspected she was a lesbian but did not mind serving alongside her.

Here, then, is an outstanding officer who treated wounded soldiers, yet is being dismissed. The policy promotes dishonesty about one's identity. In addition, even if one "doesn't tell," one is still subject to personal vendettas. Finally, the policy is based on the dubious notion that being gay hurts military morale.

One is reminded of Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Arabic linguist and Iraq veteran dismissed for being gay. Does it make sense to discharge dedicated and talented members of the military due to their sexual orientation? It's time to end "don't ask, don't tell."

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