A coalition of law schools, professors and students filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense last Friday alleging that the Solomon Amendment, which allows the U.S. military to recruit on college campuses, is unconstitutional. The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights filed the lawsuit in federal district court in New Jersey.

FAIR has declined to name the members of the lawsuit, but the group’s board includes professors from Georgetown, Yale, Stanford and New York Universities and the University of Southern California. FAIR is not releasing the names of member schools because the group believes that anonymity is needed to protect participating law schools from retribution, the Boston Globe reported last Saturday.

Georgetown University Law Center Dean Judith Areen would not comment on whether or not Georgetown was involved in the suit.

Law professor Michael Seidman, however, speculated that Georgetown University was not a plaintiff.

“To the best of my knowledge, Georgetown is not involved with the suit,” he said.

Co-plaintiffs on the suit include the Society of American Law Teachers and student groups at Boston College Law School and Rutgers University School of Law.

“I would really hope that this institution, which has tried to make up for a wrong in the past, would live up to its obligation. If the cost is looking anti-military, it doesn’t matter, because they wouldn’t let the military on campus for ten years anyway,” Michael Boucai (LAW ’05) said.

Law schools across the country have forbidden the outfits within the Department of Defense to recruit with school resources because the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is in violation of the Association of American Law School’s bylaw 6-4. The bylaw “added sexual orientation to the list of protected categories under its non-discrimination provisions,” according to the SALT Web site. Protests challenging on-campus military recruitment occurred at Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Columbia and Georgetown last fall.

“We all expect Georgetown to [join FAIR], but I don’t expect them to let us know if they have. But we do plan to educate about the suit, and pressure the university if it hasn’t already joined,” Maryana Zubok (LAW ’05) said.

Ryan Harrington (LAW ’05), however, doesn’t share this concern.

“I think that if Georgetown hasn’t signed on, it doesn’t mean that they won’t in the future,” he said.

At Georgetown, recruiters are allowed on campus and can communicate directly with students, post flyers and use on-campus mailboxes but they are not provided with facilities from which to recruit. In addition, they may not work through career services or any other services that students pay for, Harrington said.

“Virtually none of the law schools in the nation have barred military access from campus,” he said. “What many did, however, was to develop devices to adhere to their non-discrimination policies even while ensuring full military access to students.”

However, with the passage of the Solomon Act in 1995, many law schools across the country had to change their policies. The act required that law schools that receive federal funding allow military recruiting on campus.

Schools that failed to comply would have their federal financial aid withheld from them. The amendment cuts off “three types of financial aid funds, mainly loans, to students at all law schools that do not provide the military with reasonable access to campus, to students and to certain information about students,” according to the Georgia State University Web site.

Thus, law schools across the nation, including Georgetown, had to allow military recruiters on campus to keep their funding and to ensure financial aid for their students.

Now, the new lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of the Solomon Act.

According to the complaint, “This case is about the freedom of educational institutions, specifically law schools to shape their own pedagogical environments and to teach, by word and deed, the values they choose, free from government intrusion. It is about whether the government may compel law schools to lend their resources, personnel and facilities to propagate a message they abhor – a message of discrimination that violates the core values they inculcate in their students and faculty.”

Seidman said he wants Georgetown to stick by its anti-discriminatory policies.

“I was very proud of this university when it decided to enforce a policy against discrimination. It is something that is in the tradition of Georgetown,” he said. “I understand the tremendous pressure involved, but we ought to do everything in our power to re-assert our position on civil rights.”

Seidman is not alone. A faculty petition reaffirming a commitment to the anti-discrimination policy was signed by 77 law center professors last year.

Additionally, according to Zubok, the law center faculty voted to keep recruiting off-campus in 1991 because it was in direct conflict with the anti-discrimination policy.

Zubok, Harrington and Boucai have helped to organize a protest of both on-campus recruiting and the Solomon Act for next Tuesday from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the Washington Court Hotel. The protest will be followed by a walk to the Capitol.

“We expect a fairly large turnout. Last year [at a similar protest] we had about 100 people, maybe more,” Zubok said. “The idea is not to target students interviewing for JAG, we’re not trying to make things harder for them. We want to protest because we have been threatened by Solomon. The issue is whether or not it’s legitimate to force us to compromise our values in this way, and it’s not.”

Seidman and fellow law professor Chai Feldblum will lead a teach-in at 10 a.m. on rights under the Solomon Act and how Lawrence vs. Texas – a case on which the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 this summer that sodomy laws are unconstitutional – relates to military policy.

Though both Boucai and Zubok expect it to be generally law students and professors, they encourage others to attend as well.

Seidman said he hopes that the university will also make a commitment to defending the civil rights of gay and lesbian students.

“Half a century ago there were institutions that stood up for the civil rights of African-Americans and are now proud of how they conducted themselves,” he said. “I hope a half century from now we can be proud about how we conducted ourselves today.”

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