Staff

The Palm Center brings together scholars and other professionals to address controversial issues of the day on the basis of research and evidence. From our founding in 1999 through 2012, the Palm Center focused almost exclusively on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and we commissioned several dozen research studies asking whether allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would undermine military readiness. In 2013, Palm launched a multi-year research project on military service by transgender personnel.

Tom Ammiano

Government Relations Adviser

Tom Ammiano is a celebrated San Francisco political and civil rights leader who has served that city and the LGBTQ community for four decades as a teacher, elected official and comedian. Tom came out as one of the first openly gay teachers in San Francisco in 1975 and has since been at the forefront of reform on many issues including LGBTQ rights, affordable housing, education, labor, immigration, prisons, and marijuana policy. Prior to his election to the California State Assembly, where he was an Assemblymember from 2008 to 2014, he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1994 to 2008 and on the San Francisco School Board from 1990 to 1994. He has been a member of the Assembly Coastal Caucus, Environmental Caucus, Golden Gate Bridge Board, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Caucus, and Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Aaron Belkin

Director

Dr. Aaron Belkin is a scholar and advocate who, since 1999, has served as founding director of the Palm Center, which the Advocate named as one of the most effective LGBT rights organizations in the United States. He designed and implemented much of the public education campaign responsible for helping end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011. Aaron summarized the keys to successful advocacy in the book, How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which Arianna Huffington praised as a “best practices guide for civil rights fights.” Research by Aaron and the Palm Center has been covered by the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and others, as wellas by television and radio stations across the world. Aaron has written and edited more than thirty scholarly articles, chapters and books, the most recent of which is a study of military masculinity published by Oxford University Press.

Jameson Casentini

Executive Assistant

Jameson Casentini earned his Bachelors degree in political science from San Francisco State University in 2005, graduating with cum laude honors, and completed his Master of Arts degree in political science in 2013. Jameson was born in San Francisco and raised in Contra Costa County. In addition to his academic interests in the fields of political theory and philosophy, he also enjoys writing creatively and going on outdoor adventures.

 

Kristofer Eisenla

Communications Consultant

Kristofer Eisenla has extensive experience in providing communications and media relations counsel to a wide range of government, campaign, non-profit and corporate entities. He has managed communications shops on presidential and senatorial campaigns, developed message strategies for members of congress and implemented ground-up communications plans for top CEOs, among many other national media undertakings.

Nathaniel Frank

Senior Research Consultant

Dr. Nathaniel Frank is a historian, researcher and commentator focusing on LGBTQ culture and policy. He is author of the critically acclaimed Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, which won the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award for non-fiction. A frequent contributor to Slate, he is currently the director of the What We Know Project at Columbia Law School, an online platform that publicizes academic research on vital public policy debates. He has appeared on “The Daily Show,” the “Rachel Maddow Show” and many others, and in addition to Slate, his publications and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Washington Post, and elsewhere.

Brad Luna

Communications Consultant

Brad Luna has worked to raise the visibility and shape coverage of high-profile issues in the national media for over a decade. From working on Capitol Hill and managing top-tier, multi-million-dollar political campaigns for the United States Senate and House of Representatives to serving as the director of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, Brad is a nationally recognized media relations and communications expert.

Diane Mazur

Legal Research Director

Diane Mazur is a retired University of Florida law professor and former Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. She is author of A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger (Oxford University Press), a book on constitutional law and civil-military relations. Diane’s research and publications focus on military regulation and personnel policy, especially on issues related to inclusion, equal opportunity and gender. She has worked with the Palm Center for over a decade on congressional repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Pentagon’s removal of the ban on transgender personnel. Before attending law school, she served as an aircraft and munitions maintenance officer in the United States Air Force, including overseas duty at Incirlik Air Base in the Republic of Turkey.

Laura Perry

Military Outreach Coordinator

Laura Perry is a retired United States Air Force Major and a mental health provider. She transitioned while serving as a federal civilian social worker and still works on an active Air Force Base in Florida. Laura has presented on transgender issues at numerous military conferences and support groups, and she was recently selected by her Wing Commander to share her story with service members from her base. She also helped coordinate the first ever international gathering of transgender military service members, held in 2014. Currently engaged to an LPGA professional golf instructor, she is pursuing membership in the LPGA.