Military won't even notice when gay ban ends, expert testifies

The News TribuneSeptember 17, 2010 

If Congress decides to let gay men and lesbians serve openly in the U.S. military, the reaction among the vast majority of soldiers is likely to be a big collective yawn, a leading historian said Thursday.

Nathaniel Frank, a prominent gay rights advocate and author of "Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America," testified Thursday at Maj. Margaret Witt’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

He was called as an expert witness to support Witt's lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force.

Frank cited dozens of studies of other countries that have incorporated gays into their fighting forces, including Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Germany and Sweden.

In every case, he said, fears about weakened unit cohesion, falling morale, dropping recruitment rates and heightened harassment and violence preceded the change. Instead, he said, the transitions went so smoothly, people were left wondering what the big deal had been.

"They found that, across the board, problems that had been predicted did not come true," Frank said.

Studies of integrated police forces and fire departments across this country have shown the same thing, Frank said.

Witt, a popular and highly decorated flight nurse at McChord Air Force Base, was discharged for being a lesbian. She sued the Air Force, and her case has become a nationally watched trial of the government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Frank's testimony came on the fourth day of the bench trial, presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton.

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