To the Editor:
Love the new Overheard in the Hark segment but where in the world is Fenno?
Rob Friedman ’95
To the Editor:
On Tuesday, October 3rd, the Army and Air Force JAG Corps were on campus recruiting HLS students. As in years past, the interviews were open to all students, but the chance of employment continues to be denied to openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual students, because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy passed by Congress in 1993.
While discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Harvard Law School’s nondiscrimination policy for employer recruiting, a Congressional statute known as the Solomon Amendment allows the government to withhold all federal funding from universities that refuse to give military recruiters equal access to student recruiting as those employers who comply with the nondiscrimination policy. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court in Rumsfeld v. FAIR upheld the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment. In doing so, however, the Court emphasized that universities and student groups were free to voice their discontent with the military recruiting, in the form of organized protests or confrontational rallies.
For each of the last five years, Lambda has held a traditional outdoor protest with speakers and signs, denouncing the Solomon Amendment and DADT. Last Tuesday, Lambda took a different approach, and this essay is meant to explain this choice. This year, Lambda decided to focus on the expected impact of our response to military recruitment, rather than simply express our discontent for it. We decided upon a letter-writing campaign to the 302 members of the House of Representative not yet cosponsoring the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal DADT, and to all Senators asking them to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
Lambda decided on this approach for four primary reasons.
First, the FAIR case has been tried and lost by an 8-0 vote in the Supreme Court; the issue now appears to be permanently settled. Rather than protest the Solomon Amendment, we think it is more productive to shift our focus on the greater harm, which is DADT.
Second, we decided a letter-writing campaign – as opposed to simple protest – would have a greater impact. Opposition to DADT is growing as the costs to LGB service members, to our nation’s armed forces, and to the taxpayers grow larger. But we won’t see this law repealed until we collectively inform our elected representatives that we disagree with it. HLS students come from all over the nation and vote in many districts–this presents a unique opportunity for a national impact.
Third, we wanted to make sure our opposition to DADT is not confused with an anti-war stance. Lambda, as an organization, does not have an official stance on the current wars abroad; we are, however, united in our opposition to DADT, and a letter-writing campaign was the clearest way to communicate this message to the HLS community and our elected officials.
Fourth, the military recruiters on campus may not necessarily agree with DADT, and many members of Lambda felt it may be counter-productive to confront recruiters who may be sympathetic to our views but cannot publicly say so. (Some Lambda members did conduct “protest” interviews with JAG recruiters this year, as individuals have done in the past.)
More broadly, the letter-writing campaign was Lambda’s first step in calling attention to DADT and the poor policy choice it represents. Lambda will be holding a national conference about DADT scheduled for March 2 and 3 – the first in a series of events scheduled to lead off Representative Meehan’s (D-MA) reintroduction of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act in the 110th session of Congress. The letter-writing is a mere preview of a national dialogue about DADT that the March Conference will spark. While a noisy protest makes for a better picture in a newspaper, with over 300 letters signed, it is Lambda’s belief that our letter-writing campaign was an effective form of political action in response to military recruitment this year.
For students who missed our table last Tuesday, sample letters are available for download at our website (www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/lambda). Lambda will mail all signed letters dropped off in Adam Sorkin’s (3L) Hark box by October 20th.
Adam SorkinBrian SchroederCo-Presidents, HLS Lambda