Yale Will Allow Military Recruiters After Court Defeat

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – After five years of battling to exclude military recruiters from its job fairs due to the Pentagon’s policy banning openly gay or bisexual people from the military, Yale law school announced it will permit recruiters from the Air Force and Navy to take part in a university-sponsored job interview program for law students.

The federal government threatened to withhold $350 million in grants if the university did not help recruiters. On Sept. 17, an appeals court ruled in favor of the Defense Department. A Yale law professor and the lead plaintiff in the case commented that the legal battle to bar the recruiters is over for now.

In a larger case last year, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with a group of nearly three dozen universities and law schools that intended to restrict recruiters from their campuses. Based on that decision, the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit in Manhattan against the professors last month was generally expected.

With slim chance that the appeals court would rule in favor of the Yale Law School professors, the university could either relinquish the $300 million it received each year or allow the Air Force and Navy recruiters to participate in the law school’s job interview program. The professor and lead plaintiff said they weren’t going to jeopardize the medical school and science program.

Yale law school has required recruiters to sign a nondiscrimination pledge since 1978. However, the recruiters could not do so, because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy put in place by the Defense Department. The policy allows homosexuals to serve in the armed forces, as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation.

In 2002, the federal government vowed to withhold the millions it grants to Yale yearly, mainly for medical and scientific research, if the school did not allow the recruiters on campus. Forty-five members of the law school faculty filed suit, contending the law was an infringement on free speech and association and academic freedoms. In 2005, a district court agreed, and the law school stopped allowing military recruiters.

The crux of the debate is a statute called The Solomon Agreement, which allows the federal government to withhold funds from universities that fail to include military along with other recruiters.

A faction of law school students, faculty and staff members planned to send out a letter Oct. 1 expressing strong opposition to the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Gay rights activists at the law school arranged a silent protest for the day of the interview program, and affirmed that as long as the don’t ask, don’t tell policy was in effect, they would demonstrate whenever military recruiters came to Yale.

One law student opposed to don’t ask, don’t tell who disagreed with the fight against allowing military recruiters said that the school would be more effective in changing military policy if more students were exposed to armed forces career opportunities.

A chief of recruiting for the air force’s judge advocate corps (JAG) said its recruiting would not be affected by any dissent at the law school.

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