An appeals court on Monday barred the Defense Department from withholding funds from colleges and universities that deny access to military recruiters.
The third U.S. circuit court of appeals said a federal law known as the Solomon Amendment infringes on the free speech rights of schools that have limited on-campus recruiting in response to the military's ban on gays. Ruling in a lawsuit brought by students and professors at New Jersey law schools, a three-judge court panel said that the threat of a withdrawal of federal funds amounted to compelling the schools to take part in speech they didn't agree with.
"The Solomon Amendment requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objectives, and no compelling governmental interest has been shown to deny this freedom," the court wrote.
By a 2-1 vote the panel overturned an earlier decision by a federal judge that the people challenging the law were unlikely to prevail at trial. Similar suits have been filed around the country, but Monday's ruling represented the first time a court had enjoined the government from enforcing the law.