House would force campus military recruiting

House would force campus military recruiting
Yale says it will keep military recruiters off campus
Friday, February 11, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly last week in favor of a resolution expressing support for a law that forces universities to allow military recruiters access to their campus facilities despite the schools’ own discrimination policies barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The “Sense of Congress” resolution, which passed by a vote of 327 to 84, notes that, “military recruiting will be significantly harmed if military recruiters are denied access to campuses and students.” The non-binding resolution came in response to a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decision last November that declared the Solomon Amendment unconstitutional.

In its decision, the court ruled that the 11-year-old law infringes on the free speech rights of law schools that might want to bar recruiters from campus because the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gay ban violates some schools’ anti-discrimination policies.

The appeals court has agreed to a Department of Justice request to stay enforcement of its ruling until the decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many universities have protested the use of their facilities by military recruiters because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In related news, a federal judge has ruled in favor of Yale Law School faculty members, claiming they can bar military recruiters from their campus. The school had temporarily suspended its ban of recruiters in 2002 to prevent the school from losing federal funding.

Upon hearing of the court’s decision, the school immediately reinstituted its ban on recruiters. “The military is free to make its own contact plans and recruiting efforts, but the Yale Law School cannot and will not give the military assistance that it gives to employers that agree not to discriminate,” David N. Rosen, an attorney representing the school’s faculty, told the Associated Press.

Government lawyers had argued that the ruling would make it more difficult for the Pentagon to hire the best lawyers needed for issues related to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to an Associated Press report.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, said that while the military does need access to the best campuses and students, it should embrace more inclusive policies to compete for the best workers.

“If you want the best workforce, you have to be inclusive and tolerant,” Belkin said. “The military shoots itself in the foot with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

Representative Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who introduced the resolution, praised the bipartisan vote in a statement. “In our post-9/11 world, I find it unfathomable that publicly funded colleges and universities would unfairly prohibit military personnel from recruiting interested students on campus,” Rogers said. “I hope today’s bill sends a clear message that Congress will continue to support the provisions of the Solomon Law.”

Gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said during floor debates last week over the resolution that the issue is about whether or not the military can compel a “university to offer its facilities involving a policy with which they disagree” and nothing more.

“Let us be clear: no university can ban a recruiter from coming to that city or that town,” he said. “No university can say that students will not talk to the recruiter.

“What they are saying is, we are not going to allow our facilities to be used in this discriminatory way. … Have we not in this country come to the point where patriotic young gay men and lesbians who are prepared to serve their country will at least be given a chance?”

Steve Ralls, communications director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said conservatives in Congress have been shrewd at depicting the Solomon Act as a recruitment issue. “It’s not that at all,” Ralls said. “College students who want to enlist have every opportunity to do so. Colleges are just saying that the military should respect their rights and they are only asking that the military play by the same rules.”

Lambda, the George Washington University Law School gay and lesbian student association, is planning to protest DADT at an upcoming recruitment drive for JAG lawyers for the military this Saturday on its campus.

Michael Boucai, student at Georgetown Law Center who helped develop the Web site, said that banning recruiters on university campuses has not had a negative effect on military recruitment. “As far as I know, it has had no market effect on military recruitment,” Boucai said.


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