Law students protest military’s gay policy

Law School students protested the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy outside the Marvin Center Saturday while Judge Advocate General recruitment interviews were taking place inside.

Ten protesters, among them a faculty member, held signs with messages such as “Thousands of Gay Soldiers Discharged. Ask Congress Why” and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Don’t Think So.” Protesters handed out fliers to fellow law students as they entered the Marvin Center for interviews with the military.

The protest was directed toward the Solomon Amendment, a law that requires universities to allow military recruiters on campus or risk losing government funding.

In 1993, the military adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which kicks gays out of the military if they make their sexual orientation known. Last year, the armed forces booted 653 people from its ranks, down from an all-time high of 1,227 in 2001, according to a Saturday Washington Post article.

Valerie Schneider, a GW law student and president of the gay fraternity Lambda Law, said the protesters were there on behalf of the University, which adopted a policy barring sexual orientation discrimination in 1992. The goal of the protest was to educate people about the Solomon Amendment and the discriminating practices of the military, she said. Despite having a small protest, Schneider felt it was a success.

“Every student and faculty received an invitation (to the protest). I feel we accomplished our goal of awareness,” Schneider said. “Last year we only had four people protesting.”

Although a few interviewees said the military’s policy is wrong, the protest did not prevent anyone from talking to recruiters, and few people other than law students stopped to listen to the protesters. The protesters mostly talked between themselves and had friendly conversations with many of their peers as they came from the interviews.

Lambda Law is also planning an educational forum on the amendment to help make people more aware of the military’s policies. Joan Schaffner, a GW law professor and faculty advisor for Lambda Law, said the protest was not against the military, just its policy toward gays.

“I feel we are supportive of the military. We’re not against the military,” Schaffner said.

In November 2004, the third circuit court in Philadelphia ruled that the Solomon Amendment violates universities’ First Amendment rights, and that schools can bar the military from recruiting on campus. The case was brought to the court by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, an organization that sued the Defense Department. GW’s Law School joined FAIR in October 2003.

Roger Schechter, a GW law professor and the school’s FAIR co-coordinator, said the November ruling did not put an end to the amendment.

“The court has entered a stay, which puts (the Solomon Amendment) in limbo,” he said. “It makes it a frozen stay. The government wants to get the Supreme Court to review the case. However, the Supreme Court is on no deadline to hear the case.”

Schechter also said the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution criticizing the court’s decision and supporting the amendment.

“It’s like going into the backyard and screaming at the top of your lungs to make yourself feel better,” Schechter said of the resolution.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who introduced the resolution, said the military needs the support of colleges and universities.

“In our post-9/11 world, I find it unfathomable that publicly funded colleges and universities would unfairly prohibit military personnel from recruiting interested students on campus,” Rogers said in a press statement.

With the current status of the amendment in limbo, and Harvard and Yale’s decision to ban military recruiting, the University’s policy is to treat the law as if it were still in effect.

University officials have not said whether it will ban recruiters. Student leaders and professors criticized University officials for not taking a stance on the issue.

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