LOS ANGLES - The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will seek an appeal even though it will not seek to stay the reinstatement of Major Margaret Witt, a 19-year Air Force veteran. Her counsel, the ACLU of Washington announced that she will be returning to service. In response, Legal Director Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal issued the following statement:
"We congratulate Major Witt on her return to service and our colleagues at the ACLU of Washington who represented her. However, the decision to appeal by the Department of Justice leaves us wondering just what part of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue' does the Obama Administration not get? Notwithstanding President Obama's concession that the military's current anti-gay policies are hurting national security, his administration is continuing to pursue the discharge of a decorated officer who did not 'tell,' who would not have even been investigated under the military's current guidelines, and whose discharge has been found not to promote unit cohesion or morale. While it is good that the administration decided not to seek a stay of Major Witt's reinstatement, there was no necessity for an appeal to be filed, contrary to suggestions of Obama Administration representatives. After a trial, Major Witt was found to be 'an exemplary officer,' 'an effective leader,' 'a caring mentor' and 'an integral member of an effective team,' whose 'loss within [her] squadron resulted in a diminution of the unit's ability to carry out its mission.' Filing this appeal and refusing to suspend discharges pending the repeal of the military's current anti-gay policy is a significant failure on the part of our nation's Commander in Chief."
A U.S District Court Judge ruled on Sept. 24 that Air Force violated Witt's constitutional rights when it discharged her, and ordered Witt reinstated. Lambda Legal filed a friend of the court brief supporting Major Witt when her case previously was before the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.