From a News Release
DALLAS, TX — On Thursday, the Dallas VA Medical Center announced the removal of a nurse practitioner accused of harassing a lesbian Marine veteran after nearly 20,000 people joined a popular campaign on Change.org, the world's fastest-growing platform for social change.
Esther Garatie, a former Marine Lance Corporal who was wounded and honorably discharged, was seeking treatment for severe depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder when nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai allegedly told her the reason she was depressed and contemplating suicide was because she is a lesbian.
"She sat down and looked at me, and her first question was, 'Are you a lesbian?'" Garatie said in a personal statement written one day after the incident and published by the Dallas Voice. "Her second question to me was, 'Have you asked God into your heart? Have you been saved by Jesus Christ?'"
Garatie sought the advice of her friend Jessica Gerson, a social work graduate student at Tulane University, who launched a campaign on Change.org to support the veteran. Within a few weeks, thousands of people had joined the campaign, which received coverage from the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Dallas Voice, and other major news outlets.
"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."
Monica Smith, a spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center, confirmed to Change.org in an email that the Dallas VA has terminated the employment of nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai.
"The board was able to substantiate material portions of the veteran's claims," Smith said. "VA North Texas Health Care System will continue to provide an environment where veterans can receive the physical and emotional healing that they desire and deserve. As such, we remain committed to respecting diversity and providing the best possible care to all veterans. Our commitment to equal rights remains strong as we practice our core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence. Ms. Pandithurai will retire from federal service effective January 21, 2012."
"Using her online petition, Jessica was able to create real and lasting change not only for her friend Esther, but for all gay and lesbian veterans who access the Dallas VA Medical System," said Change.org Organizing Manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum. "Change.org empowers anyone, anywhere to start a campaign on issues that matter to them, and it has been incredible to watch Jessica wage and win a campaign on her friend's behalf."