The President’s Pleasant Surprise: How LGBT Advocates Ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

January 1, 2013

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama pledged to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” After his 2009 inauguration, however, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the administration would “push that one down the road a little bit” and a White House source told a journalist that the military would not begin to study repeal until 2010. The Palm Center was very concerned about these delays because we believed that Democrats could lose control of the Senate and/or House in the 2010 midterm elections. Thus, we believed that the administration had a short, two-year window to repeal the ban. We designed a controversial and counterintuitive strategy to incentivize the White House to rededicate itself to legislative repeal, and our strategy worked. This study explains the strategy.