Judge Ronald Leighton, a federal judge in Tacoma, may have become part of a social revolution. In September of this year, he presided over the reinstatement trial of Major Margaret Witt of the U.S. Air Force. Major Witt had been a decorated, experienced flight nurse. She had been suspended from duties owing to the military's 'don't ask - don't tell' policy. It had been revealed that Major Witt was in a relationship with a civilian female.
The ruling that Judge Leighton made was that Major Witt was to be reinstated. The decision made by the Air Force to suspend Major Witt, after seventeen years of dedicated service, was overturned. While the ruling may have judicial impact once the military's policy on sexual orientation finally is resolved, another aspect of this trial has been noted. Judge Leighton added some remarks 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 former 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.
It is encouragement - and a kindness - from the bench. Judge Leighton commented on love and support. He recognized the human side of the drama that had been played out before him.
Further, the decision may have future impact upon some future military service person in need of nursing care. Judge Leighton ruled that it was unconstitutional that Major Witt had been suspended. For those future miliary personnel in need of nursing care, they will have Major Witt's expertise. Undoubtedly, they will not be concerned what her sexual orientation is. The only factor that will be important is that she is there to lend her professional skill. Judge Leighton's ruling and the kindness of his remarks paved the way.