Military recruitment, bias challenged in high court

The Supreme Court heard arguments Dec. 6 in the FAIR v. Rumsfeld case, which will determine whether schools have the right to kick military recruiters and ROTC off campus without losing federal funding.

The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) is an umbrella group of 30 law schools that banned together with the Society for American Law Teachers and several individual plaintiffs to sue the government in opposition to the Solomon Amendment.

The Solomon Amendment (named after the late New York Republican Congressman Gerald Solomon) was enacted in 1996 by the Clinton administration to “ensure” military access to university campuses for recruitment, under penalty of losing federal funds if a school does not comply. The amendment wasn’t enforced until after the 9/11 attacks, when President Bush began to impose extreme measures in the name of national security.

At the core of the case is the Pentagon’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” guidelines that violate campus antidiscrimination policies. FAIR argues that the Solomon Amendment jeopardizes colleges’ First Amendment right to express a commitment to justice by adopting regulations prohibiting discriminatory institutions, such as the U.S. military, from being present on campus. If a college implements its antidiscrimination policy by barring the military, it stands to lose federal funding.

The military introduced the “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulation in 1993 allowing gays and lesbians to remain in the armed forces as long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation. This policy, however, forces gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons to deny their identity and remain silent, for fear of losing their livelihood.

Sharra Greer, director of law and policy for Service-members Legal Defense Network (SLDN), said, “Law schools are simply asking the military to adhere to the same rule as every potential employer recruiting on campus: no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Military recruiters should not receive a special exception to university non-discrimination policies.”

A Supreme Court ruling that the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional would add momentum to the growing movement against military recruitment on the nation’s college and high school campuses. The court is expected to rule in the case in the next several months. For further information go to www.solomonresponse.org.