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Lesbian Air Force Major agrees to retire

Paula Wissel/KPLU
Air Force Major Margaret Witt, shown here in December 2010, who challenged her discharge and won the right to be reinstated, will retire with full benefits and have her discharge erased.

A lesbian Air Force Major who was trying to get her job back has decided to retire instead.  Under an agreement reached with the Pentagon, flight nurse Margaret Witt will retire with full benefits and her discharge will be removed from her record.

Witt , who was stationed at McChord Air Base (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord) at the time, was discharged from the Air Force Reserves in 2006.  The reason? The Defense Department’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy. Her superiors had learned of her long term relationship with a civilian woman.  Witt  fought the discharge and her suit ended up in federal court in Tacoma.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ordered the Air Force to reinstate Witt.  He said doing so wouldn’t negatively affect morale or cohesion in her unit, as the military had claimed.

But, the military did not put Witt back on duty.

The months dragged on as her attorneys and the government negotiated over her reinstatement.  Finally, the agreement was reached for her to retire instead of return to work.

 At a news conference, she said through tears that the settlement marks the beginning of a new chapter in her life.

"My partner, Laurie, and I have decided that we're ready for our family to move forward. I am currently enrolled in a doctorate program and this summer I will also begin co-authoring a couple of nursing textbooks," she said.

Witt  says she does take solace in the fact that she helped publicize the need to address the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy.

In December, President Obama repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." However, the restrictions remain in place while the Armed Services work on implementing the change.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
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