Supreme Court rules that government can limit funds to schools that ban military recruits

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the government can withhold federal funds from colleges that bar or limit military recruiting on their campuses. Monday’s decision put an end to a decade-long fight led by a coalition of law schools, including GW’s, that were trying to strike down the statute as unconstitutional.

This final decision upholds the statute, called the Solomon Amendment, and reverses a November 2004 ruling by a Philadelphia federal appeals court that said the law violates universities’ First Amendment rights and that schools can bar the military from recruiting on campus. The case was originally brought to the court by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), an organization that sued the Defense Department. GW Law School joined the forum in October 2003.

The Supreme Court ruling was a victory for the Defense Department, which argued that recruiting restrictions on campuses limit its ability to bring talented lawyers into the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which handles legal affairs for the military, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Law schools argued that the statute imposes on their First Amendment rights by forcing them to support an employer who discriminates against gay men and lesbians in hiring under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The Pentagon policy boots gays from the military if they make their sexual orientation public.

“The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything,” Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in his 21-page opinion on the case. “Law schools remain free under the statute to express whatever views they may have on the military’s congressionally mandated employment policy, all the while retaining eligibility for federal funds.”

Kent Greenfield, the Boston College law professor who founded FAIR and organized the lawsuit, told the Boston Globe he anticipates protests about the decision.

“The one thing that becomes clear from this opinion is that the court is protecting our right to vehemently protest against the (military) when they do come onto campus,” Greenfield told the Globe. “My expectation is that … protests might go up on law school campuses after this opinion.”

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