In a huge victory, an Air Force veteran who was kicked out of the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in 2004 was ordered reinstated by a federal judge.
A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but Leighton is now the second federal judge this month to deem the policy unconstitutional.
Here’s what makes this case particularly fascinating: The judge originally ruled against Maj. Margaret Witt in 2006, but the appeals court changed precedent and sent the case back down. And then not only did the judge rule in her favor, he was clearly affected by the human side of the case:
Leighton hailed her as a “central figure in a long-term, highly charged civil rights movement.” Tears streaked down Witt’s cheeks and she hugged her parents, her partner and supporters following the ruling.
“Today you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and hopefully soon the political branches of government,” the judge told her, choking up as he recalled Witt’s dramatic testimony about her struggles.
Leighton, incidentally, was nominated by George W. Bush.