Thursday, December 02, 2004

Common Cents

And interrupting my blogging flow for a quick news check will be my new semi-regular featurette (semi-regular meaning whenever I feel like mentioning something without adding much commentary to it) Common Cents.

Common Cents will be quick news snippets that show some positive event or progress for gay people, particularly here in the States.

To inaugurate this new feature, we have from the November 30th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"Colleges that bar military recruiters from their campuses because the armed forces discriminate against gay men and lesbians cannot be penalized with the loss of federal funds, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled on Monday.

In the 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said the Constitution's guarantee of free speech prohibits the government from requiring colleges to endorse a message they disagree with. The decision halts enforcement of a decade-old law, known as the Solomon Amendment, that allows the government to withhold Department of Defense money from colleges that do not provide access to military recruiters.

Last month, Congress expanded the law to apply to colleges that do not provide the recruiters with access "equal in quality and scope" to that offered to nonmilitary recruiters. Such institutions are now barred from receiving funds from the Defense Department and defense-related funds from other federal agencies as well.

In the past, some law schools have limited military recruiters' access to their campuses because the Defense Department's policy of excluding openly gay men and women from the military services ran afoul of the schools' antidiscrimination policies. Warrington S. Parker III, a lawyer for a coalition of law schools and others challenging the Solomon Amendment, said Monday's decision means that colleges can again "follow their nondiscrimination policies."


Daniel Mach, a lawyer who represented the American Association of Law Schools, said that nondiscrimination policies send an "important message of diversity and tolerance" that is "vitally important to law schools' mission."

The court, in an opinion written by Judge Thomas L. Ambro, found that the Solomon Amendment violated colleges' First Amendment rights by compelling them to "propagate, accommodate and subsidize the military's message." The ruling cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the Boy Scouts of America to exclude a gay assistant scoutmaster because "homosexual conduct is inconsistent with ... the Scout oath."

"Just as the Boy Scouts believed that 'homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the Scout Oath,' ... the law schools believe that employment discrimination is inconsistent with their commitment to justice and fairness," the opinion states.

"The Solomon Amendment requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objectives, and no compelling governmental interest has been shown to deny this ruling," the opinion concludes. "

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