In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the “Solomon Amendment,” which says colleges that ban military recruiters from their campuses must forfeit vital federal amendment grants.
It was brought before the court by a group of law schools represented by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, who claimed the amendment violated First Amendment free-speech rights.
The Court ruled March 6 that the argument was unfounded and deemed the amendment constitutional.
Under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, openly gay individuals may not serve in the armed services and any person in the military can not disclose information about their homosexuality.
“This is not an attack on the recruiters or the military itself by these institutions,” said Dean Robert Reinstein of the Beasley School of Law. “Many law schools simply have a policy in place stating that any employer who denies applicants based on race, religion or sexual orientation cannot recruit on campus. That includes the military.”
Temple has allowed the military to recruit on campus for years citing the fact that nothing about the hiring practices the armed forces employs is illegal and some of the biases they show applicants are necessary to the nature of their work as opposed to regular employers.
“We’ve been hosting armed forces recruiters for at least the last 20 years,” Dr. Chet Rispoli, director of career development, said. “It’s important to get the message out to students that there are viable career paths within the military.”
The Solomon Amendment was created in 1996 because law schools refused to open their doors to recruiters on the grounds that they consider the government’s homosexual policy discriminatory.
Stanford University Law School, Georgetown University Law School and George Washington Law School have all barred recruiters in the past.
Marine Officer Selection Officer Capt. Michael Gavin is a recruiter who sets up information tables at universities across the city and its surrounding areas.
“Every institution I’ve dealt with has been great,” Gavin said. “No one has ever tried to bar us from recruiting.”
When a recruiter wants to come to Temple, they must contact Recruitment Coordinator Quanda Garrison.
“In the last year, we’ve had the Army, Navy and the Marines come to Temple most often,” Garrison said. “They come four times a year to our career fairs and about twice a semester to set up information tables. The other two branches usually send representatives once a semester.”
According to Rispoli, the State Department targets Temple as one of 50 to 60 universities in the country that have great recruitment interest because of the university’s size and diversity.
While Temple welcomes military recruiters, the law school does not endorse the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and has issued periodic statements to make that point clear.
“When it comes down to it, it is basically a form of legal discrimination,” Reinstein said. “The military should change this misguided policy.”
The Solomon Amendment allows the schools to ultimately make the final decision about allowing recruiters on campus, yet institutions of higher learning depend on the federal government for everything from research grants to scholarships.
“The amendment does not come out and force institutions to allow the recruiters,” Reinstein said. “However, all universities would be greatly harmed without the funds, therefore making it coercive.
“It is often aimed at penalizing law schools; however, it is the science and research departments of these universities that are really hurt by it,” Reinstein said. “They are the ones who receive most of the grants which would be withheld.”
Like most law schools, the Beasley School of Law is not an independently-owned institution, and therefore must comply with the policies and regulations set forth by the university itself.
Private law schools are unaffected by the Solomon Amendment because they don’t receive federal funding and can use their own discretion.
“There are 190 accredited law schools [in the United States] and less than 10 are independent,” Reinstein said. “It’s hard to say how many of those will continue to block recruiters.”
Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace has been illegal in Philadelphia for the past 15 years. But the armed forces are not in the same legal realm as most employers.
“If you look at most employers, this would be a blatant violation of civil rights,” Reinstein said. “Nationally, the branches of the armed forces are one of the biggest employers of minorities in leadership positions. I just wish the military would show the same leadership in the area of sexual orientation.”
Cody Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.