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DOJ Appeals Lesbian's Reinstatement to Air Force

Margaret Witt talks to reporters at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. A federal judge ruled Friday that Witt, a flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay, should be given her job back as soon as possible. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Lawyers for a lesbian flight nurse discharged under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy say she can rejoin the Air Force even as the government appeals a judge's ruling that gave her job back.

The Justice Department on Tuesday appealed a federal judge's order that found Maj. Margaret Witt's discharge was unconstitutional because it advanced no legitimate military goals.

But the department did not seek a stay of the lower court ruling while the appeal proceeds. Witt's lawyers say that means she can go ahead and rejoin the Air Force.

In a written statement, Witt says she's thrilled to go back to work.

Witt was suspended in 2004 and subsequently discharged after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. She sued to get her job back.

In 2008, a federal appeals court panel ruled in her case that the military can't discharge people for being gay unless it proves their firing furthered military goals.

After a six-day trial, the judge said testimony proved Witt was an outstanding nurse and her reinstatement would do nothing to hurt unit morale.