A recent appeals court ruling allowing some universities to ban military recruiters from campus could have future implications on the University’s Law School and its gay community.

According to last week’s ruling in a Philadelphia federal appeals court, universities in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are no longer subject to the federal Solomon Amendment. The amendment allows the government to withhold funds from universities that refuse military recruiters.

Opponents of the amendment say many schools believe the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — which discourages military service people from discussing their sexuality — conflicts with antidiscrimination policies that protect their students on the basis of sexual orientation.

“If an employer discriminates on sexual orientation, they are not allowed to come to campus. The exception is the military. They do discriminate based on sexual orientation,” said Susan Guindi, dean for career services at the Law School.

Guindi said the Solomon Amendment has steep penalties for schools that do not allow military recruiters. “If the military is not allowed on campus, then all funds can be cut off, not just from the Law School, but from the entire university,” she added.

But the ruling does not yet apply to the University, and Law School Dean Evan Caminker said, “It’s unclear at this point whether it will ever become a nationwide decision.” Caminker added that it is possible that the plaintiffs in the case could issue an injunction to stop the Solomon Amendment from applying to universities nationwide.

Still, some student groups see the ruling as a positive change. “I think it’s a great decision,” said Frederic MacDonal-Dennis, director of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. “I think that it’s been a while in coming, and I’m glad that the courts have decided that, because I think now that the universities can uphold their nondiscrimination policies without penalization from the government.”

Cliff Davidson, a member of the University student group Outlaws, said he is also pleased with the ruling. Outlaws represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender law students at the University.

The military recruits law school students primarily for positions with the Judge Advocate General Corps, or JAG, which provides legal and policy advice to the Secretary of the Navy. Lt Gen. Joe Richard, a Department of Defense spokesman, said military recruiters should have access to schools that receive federal funds.

Richard said he disagreed with the ruling overturning the Solomon Amendment, adding that the amendment was put in place to allow equal access for recruiters. “(The ruling) flies in the face of general fairness, especially in this time of war,” he added.

The ruling was a victory for the plaintiffs, collectively called the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights and made up of 25 constituents, including a number of prominent law schools such as those of Harvard University and New York University.

FAIR brought the lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense in opposition to the Solomon Amendment, which was enacted in 1994.

The American Association of Law Schools, which filed a brief on the plaintiff’s behalf, has long stood in opposition to the Solomon Amendment, said Carl Monk, the association’s executive director. “We’re certainly pleased with the ruling,” Monk added.

But more needs to be done to level the playing field, Monk said. “The real victory would be for the armed services of the United States to accept the offers of people to serve their country without regard to sexual orientation,” he added. “We believe that the military is losing some very talented law students.”

So far, Harvard is the only law school to have reinstated its ban on military recruiters, Monk said.

Schools have various options with regard to how to approach the recent ruling, Monk said. “One option that schools have is to join the group FAIR … in the litigation. Another option that schools have is to file suit on their own,” he said.

The University’s Law School has so far refrained from joining FAIR. “It’s clear at this point that the Solomon Amendment is binding law, and until something changes, that there isn’t any room for a conversation,” Caminker said.

Major Miles Davis, scholarships and admissions officer for the University’s ROTC, declined to comment on the ruling. “The Department of Defense is still studying the opinion of the court, and we’ll be consulting the Department of Justice,” he said.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.