US & Canada

Judge orders US Air Force to reinstate fired gay nurse

Maj Margaret Witt (r)
Image caption Barring an Air Force appeal, Maj Margaret Witt, shown with supporters, will get her job back

A judge has ordered the US Air Force to reinstate a nurse fired under a policy barring openly gay military personnel.

In the state of Washington, a judge ruled the ban unconstitutional and said the firing hurt morale in her unit.

Maj Margaret Witt sued after the air force sacked her upon learning of her relationship with a civilian woman.

President Obama and some military leaders have called for the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but Congress this week rejected the bid.

On Friday, US District Judge Ronald Leighton became teary as he praised Maj Witt for her struggle to win back her job following her 2004 suspension and subsequent dismissal.

"There is no evidence that wounded troops care about the sexual orientation of the flight nurse or medical technician tending to their wounds," Judge Leighton ruled.

The ruling is the second this month in which a federal judge has said the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates the US Constitution. Analysts say the twin rulings add further momentum to the growing movement to overturn the policy.

Barring an appeal by the air force, Maj Witt will get her job back.

Britain, Israel and dozens of other countries allow gay personnel to serve openly, but the US policy, passed in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, requires them to hide their sexual orientation.

President Barack Obama, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen and dozens of US Senators have said the US should overturn the law. But this week, the majority Democrats in the US Senate failed to gain enough votes to pass legislation to do so.

Critics of the policy say it hinders military readiness when the US is engaged in two wars, and point especially to homosexual Arabic linguists discharged during the height of the war in Iraq.

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