"By hook or by crook" might be the new catchphrase for social conservatives bent on keeping gays and lesbians out of the armed forces, after the revelation of several communications that discuss an anti-gay deception scheme.

On Wednesday, the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, announced they had obtained an email exchange that plotted ways to turn military leaders against gays serving in the military.

In an email exchange between Colleen Holmes, director of the anti-gay political group Eagle Forum, and possible recipient Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (CMR), a group dedicated to opposing women and gays in the military, Holmes suggests concocting a smear campaign against gays to ensure they are not granted open military service.

The email encourages the use of “horror stories” as a tactic to reverse the tide of pro-gay sentiment being expressed by many high-ranking military and Congressional leaders. In a July 7th statement, more than 50 retired U.S. Generals and Admirals urged Congress to allow open gay service ahead of a hearing on the subject.

Holmes admits that finding such stories would be difficult, but promises they would be an effective tool in the culture war against gays and lesbians. She suggests a need to fight the “'Will and Grace' effect” that works to “manipulate and flat-out-bully many Americans away from taking any position indicating that homosexuality is wrong.”

Pro-gay group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) revealed on Monday they had acquired a letter from Donnelly that mirrored Holmes' concerns. That letter was dispatched to high-level leaders at prominent veteran services organizations and called for a Thursday meeting to discuss implementation.

“I hope I can count on you in joining CMR to defend the law regarding homosexual conduct in the military,” Donnelly wrote. “We need to talk about what can be done, and why, face to face. ... Right now the other side appears poised to win.”

PFLAG's Director of Communications Steve Ralls told us: “Her [Donnelly's] campaign is one rooted in disrespect for our men and women in uniform. No wonder Ms. Donnelly is trying to operate under a cloak of secrecy. The American people would be appalled to learn what she is really spending her time on.”

Donnelly gave testimony in July at a Congressional hearing to discussing repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” – the military's policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces – where she told lawmakers that she disagreed with the policy because it allows gays to serve so long as they remain closeted and would prefer an outright ban.

At the hearing, Donnelly's testimony portrayed gays as wanton and predatory. “If we say forced cohabitation is the new rule and we're saying that if you don't like the way you feel, then just relax and enjoy it. Or tolerate it. Is that fair?” Donnelly asked Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pennsylvania).

Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center and author of the forthcoming book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, who had access to the Holmes email, said it revealed the hollow nature of the group's arguments.

“This correspondence lays bare the real motivations behind opposition to gay service,” Frank said. “As Holmes states, her objective is to tar homosexuality as 'wrong', whereas the impact of gay service on national security is a secondary concern. In fact, it's only referenced as a PR scheme to lend legitimacy to her moral crusade.”

“Gays are literally dying for their country, and the religious right is scheming about ways to vilify them and remove them from service,” Frank said.

On the net: PFLAG's blog is at www.pflagblog.blogspot.com. The Palm Center website is at www.palmcenter.org.