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Judge: OK to ban military recruiters at Yale

Judge: OK to ban military recruiters at Yale

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Yale Law School faculty members who sued Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in an effort to bar military recruiters from campus. U.S. district judge Janet C. Hall, in her ruling on Monday, found that the government unconstitutionally applied the Solomon Amendment, which allows the Defense secretary to deny federal funding to colleges if they prohibit or prevent military recruitment on campus. The decision means that the law school will be able to turn military recruiters away for the first time in two years to protest the government's ban against gays serving openly in the armed forces. "We don't want to run a law school where outsiders can come in and discriminate against our students based on race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation," Yale Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh said Tuesday. Yale became one of the first law schools in the country to include gays in its nondiscrimination policy, in 1978. For two decades, to protest the government's discrimination against gays, the law school refused to let military recruiters participate in its interview program. In the months following September 11, 2001, the Pentagon threatened to cut billions in federal aid to Yale and other schools that were refusing to allow recruiters on campus. Yale had more than $320 million in federal aid in jeopardy, and the faculty at Yale Law School agreed to waive the nondiscrimination policy for military recruiters. However, in October 2003 they filed a lawsuit against Rumsfeld, claiming that their free speech rights were being violated. Hall's ruling follows one in November by the third U.S. circuit court of appeals in Philadelphia, which found that universities have a First Amendment right to keep the recruiters away because of their biases. It also said higher educational institutions could do this without fear of losing federal money. On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing the third U.S. circuit decision. By a vote of 327 to 84, the House passed the "Sense of Congress" resolution stating that "it is the sense of Congress that the executive branch should continue to pursue" an appeal of the third circuit decision. The resolution is legally nonbinding. "Today's so-called Sense of Congress makes no sense at all," said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gay military personnel. "The military certainly has the right--and the responsibility--to recruit the best and brightest, but the best and brightest include lesbian, gay, and bisexual students too. That's exactly why it should abandon 'don't ask, don't tell.' If Congress were truly concerned about national security, it would focus its attention on the talents of the nearly 10,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members who have been fired because of their sexual orientation. It is the military's ban, and not the third circuit's decision, which is contrary to our national security interests."

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