Former Maj. Marjorie Witt’s victory on Friday in her Don’t Ask Don’t Tell trial in Washington State wasn’t just a triumph for a respected lesbian Air Force nurse, but one for the the legal system. Judge Ronald Leighton, appointed by President George W. Bush, shot down Witt’s initial claim in 2007 but was forced to hear it by a 9th Circuit’s appeals court ruling. And Leighton didn’t just uphold Witt’s claim based on 2008’s “Witt Standard.” He also sent her out of his courtroom with the best of wishes.
After issuing his Witt v. Department of the Air Force ruling, Leighton gave Witt (who told Rachel Maddow on Friday she “can’t wait to get back to my unit”) this personal message from the bench:
Major Witt, you and I are unlikely to see one another again, in this context, anyway. I’d like to make a couple of points before you go:
1) I hope you will request reinstatement with the Air Force Reserves and the 446th [her unit]. You will provide the best evidence that open service of gays and lesbians will have no adverse effect on cohesion, morale or readiness in this or perhaps any Air Force or military unit.
2) You have been and continue to be a central figure in a long-term, highly charged civil-rights movement. That role places extraordinary stresses on you, I know. 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. You said something in the trial that resonated with me. You said the best thing to come out of all this turmoil is the reaction of your parents when you told them of your sexual orientation: their love and support for you.
Not withstanding the victory you obtained here today, for yourself and for others, I would submit to you that the best thing to come out of all this tumult is still that love and support you have received from your family. You are truly blessed as a family and I am sure they will see you through whatever obstacles and difficulties you may encounter along the road ahead.
Many in the courtroom could be seen crying. Like I’m doing just re-reading it.