A federal appeals court has reinstated an Air Force reservist's challenge to the constitutionality of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, ordering the lower court to re-examine the case under a stricter standard of review.
The suit was filed by U.S. Air Force Major Margaret Witt, an Air Force reserve flight nurse stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Washington State. Witt was suspended from duty after a military investigation and hearing concluded that she had declared her homosexuality, in violation of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In Wednesday's decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Witt's "due process" challenges to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be reinstated, and that the case should be examined by the lower court under a higher level of scrutiny. As the New York Times reports, Wednesday's decision is notable because the court ruled that in defending the constitutionality of its action under the "Don't ask, Don't Tell" policy, "the government must go further than simply showing a rational basis for its action, instead proving in each case that an important government interest is at stake and that the intrusion into the plaintiff's private life significantly advanced the interest."