Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clash over Military Recruiters on Campus ; High Court Must Decide If Schools Can Discriminate against Military If It Discriminates against Gays

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clash over Military Recruiters on Campus ; High Court Must Decide If Schools Can Discriminate against Military If It Discriminates against Gays

Article excerpt

Less than a week after it heard arguments in an abortion notification case, the US Supreme Court Tuesday takes up another hot- button issue in the nation's culture wars. This time it involves law- school protests designed to end discrimination against gays in the military.

At the center of the legal showdown: to what extent military recruiters should have access to law school campuses. The case involves conflicting conceptions of free speech. It also could erode some civil rights laws, which use federal funding to encourage nondiscrimination.

On one side of the current case are a group of law professors and law schools seeking equal treatment of gays interested in serving the nation as members of the armed forces. In protest of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay individuals from the military, the law schools restricted military recruiters from fully participating in school-sponsored employment events.

Military recruiters could still come to campuses, but the law schools' employment placement offices would not assist them. The message was that the schools would not abet military discrimination against some of their own students.

Congress and the Pentagon responded to the law schools' restrictions by passing the Solomon Amendment. It threatens to cut off federal funding to any college or university that does not provide military recruiters the same access to law students as it does to any other potential employer.

Such a sanction would cost Yale and Harvard universities $300 million a year each in lost federal grants and contracts, according to briefs in the case. New York University would lose $130 million. Overall, universities receive nearly $35 billion a year in federal funding.

Concerned about the potential impact, the law schools and law professors formed the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights and filed suit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other government officials.

Rumsfeld v. FAIR is significant because it involves Congress's constitutional authority to raise and support American armed forces at a time of national peril. It also pits Congress's constitutional power to use federal funding as an incentive against the First Amendment right of law schools and law professors to wage protests without facing massive government coercion and retaliation.

Government lawyers argue that the Solomon Amendment is not a direct command that law schools abandon their protests against military recruiters. It is merely a common-sense condition upon which any donor would insist, they say.

"The United States makes available substantial federal funding that assists in the education of students, and in return seeks only the same opportunity to recruit those students that is extended to other employers," writes Solicitor General Paul Clement in his brief to the court. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.