Witt Decision Offers Preview of Post-'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' World

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District Court Ruling Strengthens Argument That Department of Justice Need Not Appeal DADT Cases.

don't ask, don't tell

Today, the Palm Center released a statement following the September 24 ruling in favor of Air Force Major Margaret Witt in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Witt was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" in 2004 and must be reinstated, according to the ruling by Judge Ronald B. Leighton (Witt v. Department of the Air Force, CV-06-05195-RBL, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit). However, the Department of Justice is expected to appeal this decision.

"Major Witt's victory shows us a future beyond "don't ask, don't tell," stated Christopher Neff, Deputy Director of the Palm Center. Added Neff: "This law has been shown to be detrimental to military readiness and a violation of the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian service members. These recent court rulings strengthen the position that President Obama need not appeal the constitutionality of 'don't ask, don't tell' here or in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States."

Palm Center Legal Co-Director and University of Florida law professor Diane Mazur responded to Judge Leighton's written opinion in Witt, stating: "Witt and Log Cabin were the first challenges requiring the government to produce evidence that 'don't ask, don't tell' improved military readiness, and in both cases the government was unable to do so. The government pointed to an earlier case upholding the policy, Cook v. Gates, but there the court barred the plaintiffs from introducing evidence that 'don't ask, don't tell' harms the military and excused the government from producing any evidence at all. Once the policy is put to a test of fact, it fails."

The Palm Center is a research institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara, committed to sponsoring state-of-the-art scholarship to enhance the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial issues of the day. For the past decade, the Palm Center’s research on sexual minorities in the military has been published in leading social scientific journals. The Palm Center seeks to be a resource for university-affiliated as well as independent scholars, students, journalists, opinion leaders, and members of the public. For more information see http://www.palmcenter.org.


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Cathy Renna

Christopher Neff
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