Associate White House Counsel Hartnett reflects on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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As the gay rights movement continues to gain momentum, it’s easy to forget just how recently the tides of change were moving in the opposite direction, Associate White House Counsel Kathleen Hartnett ’00 said at an April 11 talk at Harvard Law School, hosted by the Harvard chapter of the American Constitution Society.

Hartnett, who worked on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the policy which barred openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from military service, emphasized that DADT itself was less than 20 years old when it was repealed. That made it just a few years older than the Defense of Marriage Act, the constitutionality of which is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.

“Some of this stuff feels like ancient history and it was four years ago,” Hartnett said, referring to the Matthew Shepard Act, which in 2009 became the first law to add LGBT protections to a federal statute. “We’re all part of history, but this is where you really feel it being written around you.”

Despite growing momentum in favor of repeal, getting rid of DADT was no simple task. Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen had already told Congress that they favored repeal, Hartnett explained, they also wanted a period of extensive study to see what the consequences and implications of such a decision would be and how they could best be managed.

Read more on the Harvard Law School website.