June 5, 2008

Major Book on Military’s Gay Ban Due Out Next Year

Palm Center Scholar to Publish Definitive Story of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; Appearance set for New York Panel Discussion and Film Premiere, June 13 & 14

SANTA BARBARA, CA, – St. Martin’s Press has announced that it will publish the much-anticipated new book by Dr. Nathaniel Frank, the country’s leading expert on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and a senior research fellow at the Palm Center.  The book, Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, will be published by the imprint, Thomas Dunne Books, in the winter of 2009.  Based on hundreds of exclusive interviews with service members, policy makers and other experts on gays in the military, the book builds on research and writing Dr. Frank has published in major news venues such as the New York Times, Washington Post and The New Republic.  It is the first comprehensive, full-length book on the subject since the late Randy Shilts published the best-selling Conduct Unbecoming in 1993.

Frank’s book will reveal fresh information about the role of key players in the debate over gay service, including former Senator Sam Nunn, the chief Congressional sponsor of the gay ban in 1993, who this week announced he was finally ending his opposition to openly gay service.  The story also draws on extensive interviews with Charles Moskos, the Northwestern military sociologist who authored “don’t ask, don’t tell” and who died last weekend at the age of 74.  Research is based on over a decade of studies and data analyses conducted by the Palm Center and the book will chronicle first-hand accounts of the experiences of troops serving under the ban.

Frank said his efforts over the past ten years have been invaluably aided by colleagues, service members, scholars and activists who blazed a path before him.  “This project has been a collective effort in the best sense of the word,” said Frank.  “I’m honored to be entrusted with the stories of so many troops who have fought on the frontlines, and to be part of a tradition of scholarship and reporting pioneered by the likes of Allan Bérubé and Randy Shilts.”  The book was written with support from the Palm Center, a think tank based at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Commenting on an advance copy of Frank’s book, Dr. Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, said the volume “cuts through the ignorance, the denial and the prejudice to explain how we got stuck with a policy that was doomed to fail.  Our military and our nation owe Frank a debt of gratitude.”  Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, a gay retired Coast Guard admiral whose story appears in the book, said the book includes “poignant description of the impact of the current law on individual gay and lesbian service members.”  He said it would serve as a “touchstone” for “Congressional and military leaders to finally reconsider allowing patriotic gay and lesbian citizens to serve their country with the same dignity, honesty and honor as their heterosexual peers.”

Frank, who broke the story of the firing of gay Arabic linguists under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” is a historian who has published widely on gay rights and also teaches on the adjunct faculty at New York University.  He will join two panel discussions this month at the New York film premiere of a new documentary on gay service, “Ask Not,” on June 13 and 14.