Fighting to Serve: Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal

Fighting to Serve: Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

3.6 3
by Alexander Nicholson
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Discharged in 2002 from the US Army under the provisions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Alexander Nicholson was shocked to learn there was no group advocating DADT’s repeal that was reaching out to active military or veterans organizations. Nicholson believed the repeal effort needed spokespersons who understood military culture, who

See more details below

Overview

Discharged in 2002 from the US Army under the provisions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Alexander Nicholson was shocked to learn there was no group advocating DADT’s repeal that was reaching out to active military or veterans organizations. Nicholson believed the repeal effort needed spokespersons who understood military culture, who could talk about DADT’s impact on those who serve to those who serve and served. Someone like him.

From this idea Servicemembers United, the largest organization for gay and lesbian servicemembers, was born. Nicholson and several others who had been discharged under DADT toured the United States, where they spoke at American Legion posts, on radio talk shows, and at press conferences across the South and on both coasts. Surprised at the mostly positive reception that the tour provoked, Nicholson and Servicemembers United were propelled to the forefront of the DADT repeal fight.

In time Nicholson became the only named plaintiff in the successful lawsuit that ordered the policy overturned, forcing the US Congress to act. Fighting to Serve gives a no-holds-barred account of the backstage strategies and negotiations, revealing how various LGBT organizations, the Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House often worked at cross purposes. But in the end, it was the pressure brought by active veterans, a court ruling out of California, and a few courageous senators, representatives, and military leaders that brought the destructive policy to an end.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nicholson, founder and executive director of Servicemembers United, provides an insider’s account of the road to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law prohibiting the open service of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender military members. Uniquely qualified to describe the process of DADT repeal, Nicholson was the only named plaintiff in the lawsuit that ordered the policy overturned and was personally present at many key events. His account is a straightforward, frank description of how issue politics is done in Washington, describing the successes as well as the strategy disagreements and in-fighting among various progressive advocacy groups. Because of his position in the movement opposing DADT, Nicholson is able to offer commentary on a range of incidents: being personally forced out of the army by the DADT policy; meeting and persuading former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, of the cause’s benefits to cultural progress and military readiness; leading and speaking at rallies; and coordinating directly with the White House. Nicholson opens a window on the world of issue advocacy politics, providing keen insight into a realm of political operations that generally occurs out of the public view while offering a working model of a successful movement. Agent: John Sternfeld, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"[Nicholson] stood on the frontline of this battle and his dedicated and unflinching service to our nation was the very sort that our military needs most. He is living proof that a soldier needs no rank or uniform to fully serve his country with utmost integrity. In war, any leader needs an accurate depiction of the ground level situation. [Nicholson] reports a valuable perspective in the battle against Don't Ask Don't Tell, translating the details into priceless lessons for our civil rights movement. He was trained to translate, and this book is an example of the very best translation a leader could want."  —Lt. Dan Choi

"[Nicholson] provides a rarely seen look at how activist organizations tirelessly work to build delicate alliances in Washington. . . An intriguing look at gay activism inside the Beltway." —Kirkus

"Nicholson opens a window on the world of issue advocacy politics, providing keen insight into a realm of political operations that generally occurs out of the public view while offering a working model of a successful movement." —Publishers Weekly
 

"Former Servicemembers United founder Alexander Nicholson gives an insider's look at the multi-year effort, all in a surprisingly approachable manner. His own military story would have been reason enough for a  book, but thankfully we now have a fascinating—and important—look at history, too." — Instinct Magazine

"Don't read this if you don't want to see how the sausage is made." — Outsmart 

Library Journal
From his unique perspective, Nicholson (founder & executive director, Servicemembers United) offers a firsthand account of his involvement in the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy regarding military service. He was discharged under DADT and went on to play a central role in every effort to repeal the discriminatory policy. He claims that those most affected by DADT—active-duty gay and lesbian soldiers—were represented by advocacy groups, lawyers, and others unfamiliar with military culture. Believing that these representatives met with resistance from military leaders opposed to outside interference, and that they lacked legitimacy before lawmakers, Nicholson founded what became the largest organization for LGBT service members, as well as the first to use discharged and retired military personnel as advocates. The author does a fine job of recounting his and his organization's involvement with seeking the repeal, including the organizing of cross-country speaking tours, meeting with military and American Legion leaders, and participating in radio debates with calls from listeners. He also provides a sometimes humorous behind-the-scenes glimpse at how a grass-roots advocacy group is founded, the "sausage-making" of legislation, and the turf battles among advocacy groups. VERDICT Recommended for political scientists, LGBT advocates, and members of the military.—Mark Manivong, Lib. of Congress
Kirkus Reviews
In his debut, gay rights activist Nicholson chronicles the successful fight for the repeal of the U.S. military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy. DADT was first enacted in 1993 during the Clinton administration as a compromise to allow gays to serve in the military. Gay soldiers were still required to keep their orientation secret, however, and they could still be discharged for that reason alone. As such, DADT effectively kept the long-standing ban in place, and many gay and straight civil libertarians actively campaigned for it to be repealed. Nicholson tells his own story of being outed and ejected from the Army in 2002, which led him to activism. He writes of his feeling that the organizations already fighting for repeal weren't communicating the message effectively to the general public. "We had the support of Joe Q. San Francisco...but we did not have the support of Betty and Bob Q. Omaha," he writes. The author concluded that an organization of gay military service members was needed to help make people in Middle America listen. He got in touch with like-minded activists and, in 2005, founded what would become Servicemembers United, the largest organization of gay troops and veterans in the United States. Members met with political and military leaders, including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and lobbied the Obama administration and Congress. The work of Servicemembers United and other organizations paid off: DADT was repealed and officially ended in September 2011. Nicholson's narrative can be somewhat repetitive at times, and some of the minutiae of activist organizing may not interest casual readers. Still, he provides a rarely seen look at how activist organizations tirelessly work to build delicate alliances in Washington. An intriguing look at gay activism inside the Beltway.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781613743720
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
10/01/2012
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Alexander Nicholson is the founder and executive director of Servicemembers United and was personally engaged with every aspect of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal fight—the grassroots, the media, the US Congress, the administration, the Pentagon, and the courts.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >