Love, Defiance, and the Military Trial
at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights

Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor
Foreword by Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer

When dedicated Air Force flight nurse Major Margaret Witt was outed as a lesbian and removed from her tightly knit medical evacuation unit, it was a shot heard round the world. Tell is the riveting story of Witt’s decorated twenty-year military career and dedication as a frontline flight nurse, as well as a recounting of the tense, politically charged legal battle that led to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and helped pave the way for a suite of landmark legal victories for gay rights and the freedom to marry. At its core, Tell is a story of the power of love to transform hearts and minds, and a celebration of the indomitable spirit of Witt, her wife Laurie, her dedicated legal team, and the brave men and women who came forward to testify on her behalf in a historic federal trial.

MAJOR MARGARET WITT is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Air Force. She is currently a rehabilitation supervisor for the Portland VA Health Care System in Portland, Oregon. TIM CONNOR is an investigative reporter specializing in legal journalism.

Praise for Tell

“You may not know her name, but Margaret Witt is one of those seemingly ordinary Americans whose persistence changed the country’s culture. Her determination will help many who serve this country live better lives. Read her story. Tell others. What she’s done speaks for itself.”

Bob Dotson, NYT bestselling author of American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things


“Margaret Witt made history when she refused to be vanquished by the senseless prejudice against gay people in the U.S. armed forces. Tell is the inspiring story of the remarkable grit and courage that have made her a true American hero.”
Lillian Faderman, author of The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

“Few people get to actually witness history and fewer still are fundamental in making it happen. Major Margaret Witt has managed to do both. Tell reminds us that now more than ever we must learn to care for each other across differences within our communities, especially when those in power attempt to diminish us.”
Ryan Berg, author of No House to Call My Home

“Margaret Witt's moving and inspirational story of how she took on the US military and won is a powerful testament to how regular people can help achieve extraordinary results. Witt gives the reader a poignant insider's perspective on the legal case that was crucial in building momentum to send ‘Don't Ask Don't Tell’ to the dustbin of this country's history.”
—Marc Solomon, author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took On the Politicians and Pundits—And Won

“A landmark ruling.”—Politico

“The reason [Don’t Ask Don’t Tell] was repealed was because [Major Witt] put a real face on it.”                                                       
—Former U.S. Senator and Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman


“Major Witt’s trial provided an unparalleled opportunity to attack the central premise of [Don’t Ask Don’t Tell]…[and] set an important precedent.”  —The New York Times


“The name Margaret Witt may join the canon of US civil rights pioneers.”  —The Guardian


“This discussion [of Major Witt’s case] formed the backdrop of [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael] Mullen’s and my first in-depth discussion of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with President Obama.”  —Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, NYT bestselling author of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War 


“Throughout the years, thousands of others have walked in her shoes, bravely serving in the military while hiding their sexual orientation: many served full careers in silence while many others were dishonorably discharged because of their homosexuality. However, few had the impact her case has had on changing the military to open service. In effect, Major Witt successfully challenged 240 years of policy and law that prohibited or limited homosexuals serving in the military.”
—Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer R.N., PhD USAR ret


“[Major Witt has] been and continue[s] to be a central figure in a long-term, highly-charged civil rights movement.”  —U.S District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton


“[One] of the most accomplished and lauded members of our military…a talented defender of peace who has suffered at the hand of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy...[and whose] worth to the military and the American people was outweighed by her sexual orientation.”  —69 members of Congress, including Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, and Dennis Kucinich


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University Press of New England