Law Students Host Quiet Protest

Pink soldiers await Law first-years in protest of "don't ask, don't tell"

Lambda, Harvard Law School’s main gay-rights organization, is taking a low-key approach in protesting the presence of military recruiters on its campus today.

The military, which is interviewing Law School students for positions in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, has attracted demonstrations in previous years for its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits gay individuals from serving openly.

In a March decision upholding the Solomon Amendment—a law mandating that universities receiving federal funds allow military recruiters on their campuses—Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. ’76 wrote that “the Solomon Amendment regulates conduct, not speech. It affects what law schools must do—afford equal access to military recruiters—not what they may or may not say.”

During oral arguments last December, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement was asked if a law school can “organize a line [of people] jeering both the recruiters and the applicants.”

Clement responded affirmatively, adding that if law schools wish to disassociate themselves from the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, they can “help organize student protests.”

Instead of hosting a rally or “jeering” at students and recruiters, however, Lambda will place pink toy soldiers and information sheets about the history of military recruiting at the Law School on the desks of first-year law students. The organization will also host a table where students can send letters to their congressional representatives.

Lambda Co-president Adam R. Sorkin explained his organization’s strategy by arguing that a large demonstration would not be productive.

“While the Supreme Court has clearly authorized such an approach, we didn’t think it would be the best this year,” Sorkin wrote in an e-mail yesterday. “We decided [that] a course of action, as opposed to simple protest, would have a greater impact.”

“The military recruiters on campus tomorrow may not necessarily agree with [don’t ask, don’t tell], so it does not sit well to be confrontational to people who may be sympathetic but who cannot publicly say so,” Sorkin added.

While the Law School itself has declined to formally organize protests, Dean Elena Kagan has criticized the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and invited students and professors to make their opinions heard.

In an e-mail sent to the Law School community after the Supreme Court’s decision in March, Kagan wrote that she hopes students and professors would “accept the Court’s invitation to express their views clearly and forcefully regarding the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

She added that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is “profoundly wrong” and that she looks “forward to the day when all our students, regardless of sexual orientation, will be able to serve and defend this country in the armed services.”

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at pbhayani@fas.harvard.edu.