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UF Law professor's research helped end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' according to new book

By Matt Walker
Senior writer/Assistant editor, UF LAW

University of Florida Levin College of Law Professor Diane Mazur's research helped lead to an end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military, according to a new book released on Sept. 20, 2011, the day the law was repealed. In How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, San Francisco State University Political Science Professor Aaron Belkin chronicled the political and legal strategies that opened the door to repeal.

In the book, Belkin describes reaching out to Mazur, who is also co-director of the Palm Center, a University of California research center on military issues headed by Belkin. He sought her legal expertise regarding the possibility of President Barack Obama issuing an executive order to end the policy.

"Within days, Mazur got back to me with good news. In 1983, Congress had passed a statute colloquially known as the 'stop-loss' law. (Formally, it's 10 U.S.C. ยง 12305, Authority of the President to Suspend Certain Laws Relating to Promotion, Retirement, and Separation.) Under this law, the president has the right to modify or suspend any statute relating to military separations during times of national emergency...," wrote Belkin.

Mazur said her research was controversial across the political spectrum. Opponents of repeal objected to presidential authority because they wanted to keep the policy in force, but even repeal supporters fought the executive order option. In How We Won, Belkin explained that gay advocacy groups feared alienating Obama and so backed his position that he had no legal authority to suspend the policy unilaterally.

Media sources picked up on Mazur's research after its publication by the Palm Center. Coverage included television reports by Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," and CNN's Anderson Cooper. Journalists questioned White House press secretary Robert Gibbs for weeks on why the president would not sign an executive order, Mazur said.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, Belkin cited the executive order proposal among the most important factors turning the tide toward repeal.

"Unlike some other issues that require 60 Senate votes, President Obama had the option to suspend DADT via an executive order. Once the public learned this, a lot of heat was directed his way, and this pressure helped rededicate the White House to a legislative solution," Belkin said.

Mazur's recent book, A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger, available from Amazon.com and Oxford University Press, offers a comprehensive look at the military, the Constitution and the health of the all-volunteer force.