Who DADT: The Witt standard, real opportunity for building trust over dadt in 2010.
As the U.S. Military attempts to disguise the dadt issue in the shifting sands of a year long review, they seem more like Ostriches burying their heads in the sand and hoping that the issue will somehow go away. Their top down mandate from the White House remains solidly in place for 2010, though few would argue that the support from the Obama Administration has been anything but strong compared to the promises on dadt repeal from the road of the 2008 campaign trail. Nevertheless, real change seems to be circulating. With the brave support of General Michael Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) in front of the Senate Committee on Armed Services the winds of change are stirring from the plan-less doldrums of 2009. These winds are even blowing through the dusty backdoor dealings among Congress, the Administration, and even Gay incs attempts to see the issue continuously pushed down the road for what might seem like more important legislation issues. Which seemed hardly different from the backdoor moves among more conservative and old military pundits over the years to see dadt repeal altogether removed from any agenda that would offer fruition to its repeal.
The pressure is truly building on all sides for repeal. Though publicly, the vast majority of the U.S. general populace would see dadt repeal as fair, there is a real lack passion in seing the issue enforced. Support in Congress is also growing, yet antediluvian and well entrenched conservative Congressional members from both parties, as well as many top military brass, remain in staunch support of denying some service members in the Armed Forces the equality of honorably serving openly, simply because they are not heterosexual. Dadt being the last blockade in successfully attempting to silence these troops while reinforcing old lies and stereotypes of “cohesion disruption” and “sexual deviance” that where never studied or reviewed when dadt was implemented. Making one of the greatest issue in the dadt repeal debate of 2010 how exactly will those who have so staunchly led in the institutionalization of homophobia in the military suddenly discover their ability to be objective in the coming study and/or at the very least prove to those who support dadt repeal that they are even capable of such insight.
In Washington State the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already struck down without challenge, the way dadt can be applied in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State. the “Witt standard,” named after Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt whose dadt discharge was at the core of case Witt v. United States Department of the Air Force. The 9th Circuit three-judge panel while upholding “don't ask, don't tell,”granted constitutional protections to service members targeted for dadt discharge by forcing the military to show that their firing furthered the goals of the policy such as unit cohesion and military readiness. A fair standard considering that many soldiers dismissed over dadt have argued that their abrupt dismissal has often done more to damage unit cohesion and military readiness than the knowledge of their sexuality among their peers and subordinates. Yet at least in the Western states has been law since its ruling in 2006. and given that the Administration elected not to appeal the case it is a wonder that the the Military continues to boast that the ruling has not changed dadt policy even in the Western states: A stance that will surely begin to cost the US Military and consequently the United States cost real money down the road as lawsuits begin to pile up.
However, given that this ruling which the Obama administration prudently chose to let stand unchallenged, opens up what should be seen as less of a dilemma and more of a solution for what currently ails the politics surround dadt in 2010. With the mandate from the administration looming over the heads of the DOJ and the growing unease in both Congress and the general public to the reality and unfairness of forcing service members into silence under dadt as well as the mounting costs from court determinations against discrimination, the “Witt Standard” offers a true opportunity for the Military to allow service members to serve more openly as Director Gates claims is the reason for his 45 day review. The law also offers a fighting chance for service members currently caught under the oppressive thumb of dadt to bring their outstanding service records into play as they fight for their right to continue to serve. Moreover, the Witt standard would allow the Military and the Congress to openly question service members as well as allow them to testify to their experience as service members, even allowing some of their family members to testify as well. And the best part of it all, at least in the Western states, there is little to be done except to simply obey the law, which has up to now been the position of the Military and the Administration's key argument for not placing all dadt discharges under moratorium for 2010.