Volume 2, Issue 1 - Spring 2008

IN THIS ISSUE: Please click here to download a PDF copy of this newsletter.

A group of twenty-eight retired U.S. generals and admirals released a statement in November urging Congress to repeal the current ban on openly gay troops. The statement says that replacing the current policy with one of equal treatment "would not harm, and would indeed help, our armed forces," and it points to countries such as Britain and Israel which both ended their gay bans years ago.

Dr. Jeanne Scheper, Research Director at the Palm Center said the support of such a large number of distinguished senior military officers for an end to the gay ban reflects a sea change in military opinion on the issue. Dr. Scheper said that many active duty officers feel they cannot criticize the policy publicly even though they oppose it privately. Since the statement was released, three other new names have been added.

The statement by the generals and admirals was read at a news conference marking the 14th anniversary of the signing of "don't ask, don't tell" into law by President Bill Clinton. Gay veterans and aid organizations laid twelve thousand flags on the Washington Mall as a tribute to the nearly twelve thousand gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who have been fired under the current policy.

Rear Admiral William Retz was incorrectly listed as a signatory of this statement. We regret the error.

In December, groundbreaking scholar and dedicated community-builder Allan Bérubé died from complications related to stomach ulcers. Bérubé's 1990 book, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II recounted the personal experiences of the previously invisible gay GIs from that war, and also brought to light the formative influence of military life on both gay culture and the wider American society. That work became the basis of the 1994 documentary film, Coming Out Under Fire, directed by Arthur Dong. Dr. Jeanne Scheper, the Palm Center's Research Director is working with CUNY's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in New York City to co-sponsor a forum on May 1, 2008 to honor Allan Bérubé's immense contributions to working-class studies, lesbian and gay history, and the history of sexual minorities in the military. The forum is open to the public.

In October, Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center, Santa Barbara Congresswoman Lois Capps, and Professor George Reed of the University of San Diego met with Congressman Ike Skelton, Chariman of the House Armed Services Committee. Reed retired recently as Director of Command and Leadership Studies at the Army War College. The discussion focused on scholarly research about gays and lesbians in the military. Congressman Skelton asked several questions and requested additional reading material, which Dr. Belkin provided.

A new study released in January, titled, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Does the Gay Ban Undermine the Military's Reputation?" was authored by Dr. Aaron Belkin and published in Armed Forces and Society, the leading journal of scholars who study civil-military relations.

According to Dr. B Belkin, "the data show quite clearly that in the eyes of the American people, 'don't ask, don't tell' casts the military as being on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the culture, even among conservatives." The new study includes original research which suggests that the policy harms the military's reputation by prompting journalists to criticize the armed forces, providing a vehicle for anti-military protest, and making people more embarrassed by than proud of the military.

The Palm Center contacted 140 conservative newspapers which had endorsed President Bush in the 2004 elections. At least 60 editorials opposing the policy have appeared during the past five years, while not a single pro-ban editorial was published. High schools denied military recruiters access to campus on 19,228 separate occasions in 1999, in part to challenge the ban. Polling data and case studies show that heterosexual service members are comfortable interacting with gays and lesbians, and would prefer that their gay peers reveal their sexual orientation.

On December 4, 2007 the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Dr. Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center, about the group of twenty-eight retired generals and admirals who recently urged Congress to repeal the ban o n openly gay troops. The op-ed is titled: "Don't need 'don't ask, don't tell': Rhetoric from presidential candidates aside, gays in the military have wide support."

Dr. Frank argued that, "Evidence has been mounting for more than a decade that the presence of gays does not undermine unit cohesion," and that, "Polls have found that between 63% and 79% of Americans favor repeal, including a majority of conservatives and Republicans."

The Palm Center is proud to announce the following fellowships: Charlie Law<!--[if !supportAnnotations]--><!--[endif]-->of Rice University is polling current service members about gays in the military and DADT and Oren Pizmony Levy of Indiana University is analyzing data based on a survey conducted with the Israeli Gay Youth Organization of Israeli service members about their subjective experiences in the military.

The Palm Center is honored to have received the following gifts: $75,000 from the Gill Foundation; $25,000 from AT&T; $25,000 from The David Bohnett Foundation; $15,000 from the Silva Watson Moonwalk Fund; $10,000 from Daniel Renberg; $10,000 from the Small Change Foundation, $5,000 from The BWB Foundation; and $1,000 from Bruce Presley. We are extremely grateful for the support.

<!--[if !supportAnnotations]-->