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Final Matthew Shepard Lecture explores "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Nathaniel Frank signs copies of his book after the lecture.

In late October/early November, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was in federal court. At issue was a judge's order that had required the military to allow openly gay troops. A federal appeals court had granted a freeze on the order that would have ended the policy.

The timing of Whitman's 2010 Matthew Shepard Lecture was perfectly aligned for a discussion on the topic. Nathaniel Frank, author of “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America,” presented a lecture titled “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: How We Got It, How We Can Get Rid of It.” Frank has lectured at West Point, consulted with the Pentagon Working Group and testified as an expert witness in two successful Constitutional challenges to the law in federal courts. 

Ironically, while ending the policy remains up in the air, the lecture series came to an end with Frank's presentation. Thanks to an anonymous donor, Whitman College launched The Matthew Shepard Lecture Series in 2005. Since then, the college has hosted eight lectures, exhausting the fund. The series brought noted speakers and public figures to campus community to address hate crimes and issues of equal rights for all persons regardless of sexual orientation. The series namesake, Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998 in what was a crime based on anti-gay hate and bigotry.

“The lecture series has been a terrific addition to the college.  I was here when the endowment was formed and I remember thinking at the time, what a great way to celebrate Matthew Shepard’s short life,” said Chuck Cleveland, dean of students.  “No matter how far we think we’ve come, the lectures always point out to us that we have a longer way to go and that there is always more work to be done.  They have been so educational, so interesting and so beneficial to the college that it really saddens me that that was the last lecture.  I am hopeful that there will be a way to continue this lecture series.” 

The lecture series has featured the following speakers:

Sept. 28, 2009 – Dean Spade, JD, assistant professor of law, Seattle University – “Beyond Legal Equality”

April 1, 2009 – Kate O’Hanlan, MD – “The Intersection of Medical Science, Health and Civil Rights” 

Feb. 12, 2008 – Keith Boykin – “Sexuality, Human Rights, and the Media: A Conversation with Keith Boykin,” facilitated by Robert Tobin, formerly Cushing Eells professor of humanities and chair of division II; and Alberto Galindo, sssistant professor of foreign languages and literatures-Spanish.

Jan. 15, 2007 – Louvon Harris – “Responding to Hatred: The Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing.”

May 1, 2006 – State Senator Bill Finkbeiner ’91 – “In Search of a Philosophical Majority.”

Oct. 27, 2005 – State Representative Ed Murray – “Banning Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation in the State of Washington (House Bill 1515)”

March 1, 2005 – Judy Shepard, Inaugural Speaker – “The Legacy of Matthew Shepard”

Published on Nov 9, 2010
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