DoD Cites Fairness in Top Court's Ruling on Campus Recruiting
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2006 Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that military recruiters must have as equal access as other organizations to meet with students on college and university campuses is a matter of fairness, a military official said here today.
The court's decision upholds a law that eliminates federal funding for colleges and universities that ban military recruiters from conducting their business on campus.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Defense Department said the Solomon Amendment -- which says military recruiters must have equal access to students as that enjoyed by corporate recruiters and other organizations -- was unconstitutional and violated the right of free speech.
"DoD is not asking for any special treatment, and it isn't trying to suppress free speech in any way," Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Defense Department spokeswoman, told American Forces Press Service. "We simply want to be able to compete on an even playing field for the best and brightest that our nation's universities have to offer."
About 2,500 law students are interviewed by DoD recruiters each year, Krenke said, of which about 400 become military lawyers.
Krenke said the Supreme Court's decision won't affect military recruiting on most college and university campuses, because most were already complying with the Solomon Amendment. Only three schools have had their federal funding denied because of noncompliance with the Solomon law, she said.
Before the late New York Rep. Gerald Solomon introduced his legislation in Congress in 1994, a total of 12 colleges and law schools had banned military recruiters from their campuses, while others announced they might do the same.
The crux of the plaintiffs' case against DoD centered on the argument that the military discriminates against homosexual servicemembers' free speech rights because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy adopted militarywide in 1994.
That policy prevents military officials from discharging homosexuals simply on the basis of suspicion of sexual orientation. In this environment, officials aren't to ask servicemembers of their sexual leanings, while homosexuals aren't required to disclose such information.
Krenke said DoD's don't ask, don't tell policy is a federal law. "It's not just a DoD policy. For it to be changed there must be a change to the law," she said.