The Air Force said Wednesday that it hasn't made a decision on whether to try to keep a lesbian flight nurse from being reinstated while it appeals a judge's ruling to return her to her old job.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma ruled two months ago that former Maj. Margaret Witt’s firing under “don’t ask, don’t tell” violated her rights, and he ordered that she be given her job back as soon as she put in enough nursing hours to meet qualifications for the position.
The Justice Department appealed that ruling Tuesday. But government lawyers did not seek a stay that would put the judge’s order on hold. Witt’s lawyers celebrated the DOJ’s decision, saying it meant she could be reinstated even as the appeal proceeds.
But the Air Force issued a statement Wednesday making clear that if Witt meets her nursing qualifications, military officials and the Justice Department will reconsider whether to seek a stay.
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“To date, she has provided the Air Force no evidence that she meets the qualifications necessary to serve as an Air Force flight nurse, nor has she passed a medical physical which is also a prerequisite to her reinstatement,” the statement released by Lt. Col. Karen A. Platt said.
Witt’s lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said they’d fight any effort to keep their client from resuming her duties during the appeal. They noted that the judge found that her dismissal advanced no legitimate military interest, and to the contrary actually hurt morale in her unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“We do not foresee a problem in Maj. Witt getting reinstated,” ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said. “We will present the Air Force with evidence showing she meets the nursing hours requirements and she will pass the physical.”