Nathaniel Frank

  • September 10, 2010
    The federal court decision that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) policy is unconstitutional is unlikely to dampen efforts to repeal it. The decision issued late yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the policy subverts the Constitution's First and Fifth Amendments. But the decision, as reported by The New York Times, will not immediately change the policy. Parties in the lawsuit were encouraged by the judge to file briefs supporting and opposing a proposed injunction of the ruling. Judge Phillips wrote, "The don't ask, don't tell policy infringes on the fundamental rights of United States service members in many ways. In order to justify the encroachment of these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the don't ask, don't tell act was necessary to further the government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden."

    Aubrey Sarvis, head of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a group involved in urging Congress to repeal DADT, said, "We're pleased by the judge's decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger for years. Congress made the DADT law 17 years ago and Congress should repeal it. The Senate will have the opportunity to do just that this month and most Americans think the Senate should seize it."

    Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a press statement that the ruling "affirms what so many of us already know: ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' should end, and for good reason: it is discriminatory, outdated and unfair." She continued, "Our nation's political leaders must end this unjust law once and for all. The lives and livelihoods of dedicated service members hang in the balance."

    The Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which has produced reams of material on the ineffectiveness of DADT, said the ruling should add pressure to lawmakers to repeal the law.

    Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin called the decision "historic," and said it "makes clear that there is no legal or military justification for banning gay service in the military. It now comes down to the Senate in September. A vote on the Defense Authorization bill would allow the Pentagon to put forward a new policy of non-discrimination in 2011."

    For a detailed history of DADT and the efforts to repeal it see video of an ACS panel discussion, which includes Sarvis and Nathaniel Frank, a leading researcher and author about DADT. Frank talked with ACSblog following the event about DADT and its effect on the military and gay service members. His interview is available here.

  • August 17, 2010
    The military discharged 428 service members last year for violating its "don't ask, don't tell," policy, reports The Washington Post, citing a Palm Center study. According to the newspaper, the study found that the discharges included "disproportionate numbers of women and minorities."

    The Post notes:

    Women account for 14 percent of Army soldiers but received 48 percent of the Army's "don't ask" discharges in 2009, the study said. Six percent of the Marine Corps is female, but women accounted for 23 percent of its discharges. The Navy discharged only two officers for violating the policy in 2009, and both were Asian. The Army discharged five officers - two were black, one was Asian and two were white, the Palm Center said.

    The study also found that the "military continued to fire mission-critical specialists for being gay in fiscal year 2009." The Palm Center study is here.  

    The Palm Center's Nathaniel Frank talked with ACSblog about the history of the policy that bars lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the military, following an ACS panel discussion on efforts to repeal the policy. Frank's interview is available here and video of the full panel discussion is here. A Washington-Post-ABC News poll from earlier in the year revealed "majorities across party lines favor" allowing gays to serve openly.

  • April 8, 2010
    BookTalk
    Unfriendly Fire
    How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America
    By: 
    Nathaniel Frank
    [Editors' note: Unfriendly Fire is now available in paperback. Accordingly, ACSblog is pleased to re-post author Nathaniel Frank's ACS Book Talk contribution from June 11, 2009.] 
    By Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow, the Palm Center

    This week the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy governing gay troops. In doing so it granted a request by the Obama administration which had asked the court not to hear the appeal of James Pietrangelo, an Army Captain who was fired under the policy.

    In asking the court not to take the case, the White House put itself into a tricky position. The administration found itself arguing that the lower court had ruled correctly in finding that the policy furthers a "legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." Yet if the President believes that, why has he promised to get rid of the policy? Indeed, Obama has stated clearly that he believes the opposite to be true, saying the policy is a "counterproductive strategy" that "doesn't make us more safe." His press secretary, thrown on the defensive recently by mounting pressure to lift the ban, has repeatedly said that the policy "isn't working for our national interests."

  • October 6, 2009

    ACSblog recently caught up with Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center, after his participation in the ACS panel "Time for Change? The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy and Military Readiness."

    "The initial constrictions on homosexual conduct in the miltary had to do with a much larger ban on any kind of conduct that was outside of the matrimonial, heterosexual sex. And the concerns were very different than ours today," said Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. "They had to do with procreation and growing the strength of the tribe, and maintaining lines of racial purity and patriarchy and so forth." Watch the video or download a podcast here.

  • June 11, 2009
    Unfriendly Fire
    How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America
    By: 
    Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow, the Palm Center
    This week the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy governing gay troops. In doing so it granted a request by the Obama administration which had asked the court not to hear the appeal of James Pietrangelo, an Army Captain who was fired under the policy.

    In asking the court not to take the case, the White House put itself into a tricky position. The administration found itself arguing that the lower court had ruled correctly in finding that the policy furthers a "legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." Yet if the President believes that, why has he promised to get rid of the policy? Indeed, Obama has stated clearly that he believes the opposite to be true, saying the policy is a "counterproductive strategy" that "doesn't make us more safe." His press secretary, thrown on the defensive recently by mounting pressure to lift the ban, has repeatedly said that the policy "isn't working for our national interests."

    Of course, discouraging the Supreme Court from hearing a challenge to a government policy does not necessarily mean you believe that policy is a good one. And it is unfortunately the case in politics that, sometimes, telling the truth is not the best way to get where you want to go. If President Obama had not defended the lower court's ruling, he would have faced defending the policy in the far more visible setting of the highest court in the land. He also would have risked winning: if the Supreme Court were to uphold the constitutionality of "don't ask, don't tell," that decision could make it harder to end the ban in the court of public opinion.