Law Schools Rally against Military Policy

Article excerpt

Throughout the past six years, the Bush administration has gone to great lengths to defend the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which bars lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from serving openly in the armed forces. In a Supreme Court decision in March 2006, the Pentagon won the right to demand that the nation's law schools selectively waive their nondiscrimination rules to allow military recruiters to participate in on-campus interviews. One year later, that decision, in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, has galvanized opposition to the underlying policy.

Even before President Clinton signed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" into law as a compromise in 1993, the American Association of Law Schools added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination rule, prompting law schools to refuse interview access to all employers who discriminate on that basis. The association's move dealt a blow to the Pentagon, since law schools place many of their top students in jobs through on-campus recruiting.

Congress responded in 1996 by passing the Solomon Amendment, which demands that all institutions of higher education provide the same access to military recruiters that they provide to any other employer. Under a revised version of the Solomon Amendment, an entire university can lose federal funding if its law school refuses to comply.

In Rumsfeld v. FAIR, a lawsuit brought by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the Supreme Court held that since law schools remain free to protest the Pentagon's policy, the Solomon Amendment does not violate their constitutional right to free speech.

That ruling sparked a lively reaction at law schools from coast to coast. On the first weekend in March, the Lambda chapter at Harvard Law School hosted a conference focusing on the military's policy. …