Dallas VA Medical Center: Fire Homophobic Nurse for Harassing Lesbian Marine Veteran
  • Petitioned Veterans Affairs

This petition was delivered to:

Veterans Affairs
Texas Board of Nursing
Dallas VA Medical Center
Chief of Staff, VA North Texas
Clark Gregg
Dir. for Patient Care Services, VA North Texas
Sandray Griffin
Dir. for Outpatient Services, VA North Texas
Jennifer Purdy
Texas Veterans Commission
Director, VA North Texas Healthcare System
Jeffrey Milligan

Dallas VA Medical Center: Fire Homophobic Nurse for Harassing Lesbian Marine Veteran

    1. Jessica Gerson
    2. Petition by

      Jessica Gerson

      New Orleans, United States

  1.  
  2.   
January 2012

Victory

On Thursday, January 19, 2012, the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center announced that they've concluded their investigation of an allegedly homophobic nurse who harassed a lesbian Marine vet, substantiating the claim that this nurse subjected the vet (Esther Garatie) to anti-LGBT abuse. According to the VA: "Ms. Pandithurai will retire from federal service effective January 21, 2012."

Prior to Jessica Gerson's campaign on Change.org, the VA hadn't even responded to Esther's formal complaint.

Within just a few weeks, the petition received several thousand signatures. LGBT publications around the nation started talking about Esther's story, and pressure was building on the Dallas VA to offer a response. That's when Esther finally heard from the VA. They had her come in to meet with a different counselor and took a statement about what happened with Pandithurai before launching a full investigation.

By the time the Dallas VA concluded its investigation, nearly 20,000 people had signed Jessica's petition in support of Esther.

“It’s reassuring for me and for the thousands of people who stood with Esther to know that the Dallas VA Medical Center takes allegations like this seriously,” said Jessica Gerson, who launched the campaign on Change.org. “But more importantly, gay and lesbian veterans like my friend Esther should feel comforted that the VA system has become a little more safe and accepting thanks to the removal of this homophobic nurse.”

Esther Garatie also issued a statement upon learning about the removal of Nurse Pandithurai:

"I really want to thank all of the people that have come together to support me and other veterans," said Esther. "Thank you for standing up against anything like this ever happening -- to any veteran -- ever again."

"When I heard my name called, 'Esther,'  I got up and walked toward the voice of the woman, who barely looked at me, and called me 'Sir.' I followed her into her office and before I sat down, politely said, 'Actually, it’s Ma’am….  My name is Esther.'  She sat down and looked at me, and her first question was, 'Are you a Lesbian?' Her second question to me was, 'Have you asked God into your heart?  Have you been saved by Jesus Christ?' This is when I realized that I was no longer a United States veteran in her eyes, I was just a homosexual." 

---

Written above are the exact words that my friend Esther Garatie used to describe her recent visit to the Dallas VA Medical Center. Esther is a Marine veteran, wounded in service to her country and Honorably Discharged from the Marines as a result. She walked into a mental health clinic at the Dallas VA Medical Center on October 12, 2011 and was seen by a nurse practitioner named Lincy T. Pandithurai. Nurse Pandithurai subjected Esther to a vitriolic, hateful rant that lasted THREE hours (you read that right!) on the topic of Esther's sexual orientation. Ms. Pandithurai told Esther that the only reason she's depressed is because she's gay.

When Esther broke into tears, Ms. Pandithurai announced that her tears were clearly a manifestation of guilt over her sexual orientation (rather than distress at being abused while seeking help). Ms. Pandithurai stated that Esther is living in darkness and needs to "return to the light." She also told Esther that there are churches now that "actually accept homosexuals and can help you get your life back on track and stop choosing to be gay." She further stated that "homosexuality used to be a diagnosis until recently, but they changed it because of Obama." (In point of fact, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. President Obama was 11 at the time.)

This is only a brief sample of the verbal and psychological abuse Esther was subjected to. As a result of this mistreatment, Esther left the VA in far more danger of harming herself than when she entered.

The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Nurses Association have all stated publicly that homosexuality is not a choice and is not pathological. So-called “reparative therapy,” which Ms. Pandithurai seemed to be attempting in brief, has also been condemned by these same organizations as ineffective and potentially damaging psychologically.

Nurse Pandithurai was operating as an employee of the U.S. Government, a mental health professional, and a licensed Nurse Practitioner. Her treatment of Esther violated laws and ethics governing all of these roles. The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment prohibits the government, and thus any government employee acting in her professional capacity, from endorsing any particular religion or, indeed, religion at all. Clearly Ms. Pandithurai is acting in violation of U.S. Constitutional law. She is also practicing in violation of state law in the form of Texas’ Nursing Practice Act, Sec. 301.452(b)(10) and 301.452(b)(13).

Ms. Pandithurai needs to be fired from her position and subjected to appropriate discipline by the Texas Board of Nursing, so that she can no longer disguise hate under the pretense of providing professional help. Formal complaints have been issued to the Dallas VA Medical Center and the Texas Board of Nursing, but we need your help to show support for Esther's campaign.

To read the full story as reported by the Dallas Voice, check out:
http://www.dallasvoice.com/va-nurse-accused-anti-gay-tirade-1093109.html

To read the full text of Esther Garatie's personal statement, check out:
http://www.dallasvoice.com/esther-garaties-statement-1093071.html

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Social Media Campaign Helps Can Anti-Gay Nurse

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      ‎EDGE BOSTON: "After the disturbing comments, Garatie talked to her friend Jessica Gerson, a social work graduate student, about the incident. In Oct. 2011, to support Garatie, Gerson took to the social media website, Change.org, and created a campaign asking for Pandithurai to be fired. It only took a few weeks for the campaign to garner thousands of outraged supporters, the Dallas Voice reported."

    2. Lincy Pandithurai, TX Nurse Who Harassed Lesbian Veteran, Removed From Job

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      HUFFINGTON POST: Upon learning of Pandithurai's removal, the 28-year-old Garatie also issued a statement. "I really want to thank all of the people that have come together to support me and other veterans," she said "Thank you for standing up against anything like this ever happening -- to any veteran -- ever again."

    3. Nurse at Center of Furor Over Homophobic Remarks Has Left Dallas VA

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      DALLAS OBSERVER: "We're very excited," says Jessica Gerson, Garatie's close friend who authored a massive Change.org petition calling for Pandithurai's removal.

    4. Nurse to retire after Dallas VA upholds lesbian Marine vet's complaint

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      "The Dallas VA Medical Center has substantiated allegations that a nurse discriminated against a lesbian Marine veteran who sought mental health treatment, and the nurse will retire effective Saturday, according to a statement released by the hospital today."

    5. UPDATE: VA hospital extends investigation

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      Whats New: After reviewing a report on the incident, Jeffery Milligan, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System, asked the investigative board to continue the inquiry and consider new information. “This is a serious allegation and we owe both the veteran and employee a careful and thorough investigation,” said Monica Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

    6. Dallas VA reopens investigation after discovering "additional information"

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      RELEASED BY DALLAS VA SPOKESPERSON, MONICA SMITH: "After reviewing the report, the Director of VA North Texas Health Care System asked the investigative board to reopen its investigation to look into additional information that came to light after the initial interviews. This is a serious allegation and we owe both the veteran and employee a careful and thorough investigation. Ms. Pandithurai will remain in a non-clinical area performing administrative duties while the investigation continues."

    7. Bilerico Project features Jessica Gerson's Op-Ed

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      "By the end of 2011, more than 40,000 U.S. troops will return home from Iraq. Many of those troops, some of whom are gay or lesbian, will seek medical support from their local VA hospital -- support they've earned and deserve. But is our VA system prepared to care for our nation's gay and lesbian soldiers?"

    8. Will VA hospitals care for gay and lesbian veterans?

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      In an op-ed featured in the Huffington Post, Jessica Gerson, author of the Change.org petition "Dallas VA Medical Center: Fire Homophobic Nurse for Harassing Lesbian Marine Veteran," questions whether or not the VA hospitals are prepared to care for...

    9. Will VA Hospitals Care for Gay and Lesbian Veterans?

      Jessica Gerson
      Petition Organizer

      "Fortunately for me, and for all those who know and love Esther, she didn't end her life that afternoon. And though I couldn't repair all the damage done, I could make it my mission to ensure that what happened to Esther never happened again to any gay or lesbian veteran."

    10. Reached 17,500 signatures
    11. VA hospital still reviewing lesbian vet’s complaint

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      “She’s such a private person that this publicity has been deeply uncomfortable for her, not only because of the need to relive her experiences, but also simply because she’s the kind of person who prefers to stay quietly in the background,’ Gerson said. “It’s taken a great deal of courage for her to set her preference for privacy aside enough to seek justice for what happened.”

    12. Dallas VA hospital to decide within ‘a few weeks’ on discipline for nurse

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      “The investigative board was due to complete its investigation on Friday [Dec. 2],” VA Medical Center spokeswoman Monica A. Smith told us today. “Once complete, they will forward a report to our Executive Office for review. The Executive Office, Human Resources, and the Office of General Counsel will review the board’s report and determine what, if any, actions are necessary. We expect this will take no longer than a few weeks.”

    13. Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project: It's All in the Framing

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      In response to the Dallas Morning News coverage:

      Really? There's a "raging debate" going? On what? Where's this debate? A petition was started on change.org that quickly gained over 16,000 signatures, but those are hardly only LGBT people and there isn't a "Damn those gays for wanting qualified health care!" petition. There's a small Facebook group in support of the nurse, but that's standard operating procedure anymore; it's become as commonplace as a change.org petition. The group has 35 "likes." Raging debate? Or sensationalistic journalism? You decide.

    14. Dallas VA investigating nurse accused of calling lesbian soldier a sinner

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      “This is not the VA’s fault,” Garatie said. “My only motive here is to make sure this woman doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

    15. Reached 15,000 signatures
    16. The Depressed Lesbian Vet and the Allegedly Homophobic VA Nurse

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      Incredible story in the Dallas Observer: "She's short and small, and I'm a Marine," Garatie said. "And I'm not scared of anything. But I don't want to run into this woman ever again. She terrifies me."

    17. Dallas VA Investigating Nurse Who Demeaned Lesbian Marine Veteran

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      More great coverage from LezGetReal.

    18. After alleged homophobic rant, VA nurse prevented from seeing patients

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      "This campaign isn't just about helping Esther -- it's about protecting other gay and lesbian servicemembers from having to deal with this kind of hate and bigotry, especially after they’ve given so much in service of our country," said Gerson."

    19. After Antigay Charges, VA Nurse Removed from Patients

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      "Garatie and friend Jessica Gerson started a petition on Change.org to have the nurse fired — they've received 12,000 signatures. "

    20. Dallas VA puts nurse on administrative duty after lesbian vet's complaint

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      Today Change.org is reporting — and Dallas Voice has confirmed — that the nurse practitioner, Lincy Pandithurai, has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the VA Medical Center’s investigation into Garatie’s complaint.

    21. Dallas VA Nurse prevented from seeing patients during investigation

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      Good news from Dallas VA. It's clear that they're taking Esther's complaint seriously.

    22. Support for gay veteran with PTSD who had ‘lifestyle of sin’ diagnosis

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      "I’d just like to say thank you to all the people who signed the petition in support of Esther Garatie. In just two days, it went from 6,000 signatures to around 12,000 signatures..."

    23. Reached 12,500 signatures
    24. 12,000 Believe This Veteran Deserves Better On Veterans Day

      Mark Anthony Dingbaum
      Petition Organizer

      On Veterans Day -- as one should everyday -- we acknowledge and show gratitude for the personal sacrifices made by the men and women in the U.S. military. And while that sentiment may be nice, unfortunately, the care we provide these brave soldiers...

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

      • almost 3 years ago

      Oh my; Semper Fi

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Patricia Ross DECATUR, TX
      • almost 3 years ago

      Because someone in my family is gay.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Matthew Seegmiller OGDEN, UT
      • almost 3 years ago

      Everyone deserves to be in this world to experience everything life has to offer, regardless of how you choose to experience it, I honestly wish that this was not an issue, but a welcoming and union of all people in all backgrounds. that would be one step closer to a wonderful world to live in.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Shawn Longino LOS ANGELES, CA
      • almost 3 years ago

      thic callous treatment of a warrior is shameful.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Henry Coe PENSACOLA, FL
      • almost 3 years ago

      Discrimination is wrong, period. That nurse has no business being a nurse for any Veteran in any capacity. She obviously is there on her own misguided mission in her own agenda based on her own perceptions. She has no business counseling anyone about anything.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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