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The Affirmation of Solomon

The Supreme Court just ruled unanimously to uphold the Solomon Amendment, which has been interpreted to require schools accepting federal funds to allow military recruiters onto their campuses. This mostly affects law schools, whose students are the prime targets, yet most colleges today have nondiscrimination policies that are in direct conflict with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule.

In my days at The Sun, I wrote two editorials on this issue. While I still agree with their spirit, I have come around to realize that the Supreme Court's decision is entirely correct. My argument went like this: nondiscrimination for gays is essential; the military undermines this through its policy on homosexuals, which, although a step forward at the time, is not sufficient; ROTC, as a necessary and important part of Cornell's legacy, as well as a military institution, also has a problematic stance regarding gays on campus; the problem is not Solomon itself, which is smart legislation, but "don't ask, don't tell"; still, the Cornell Law School should take a stand and file an amicus brief against the Solomon Amendment on principle.

By the time I'd written the second editorial, I was beginning to question this line of argument -- but it wasn't the only piece I wrote that I didn't necessarily agree with. The issue as I see it now is that it's entirely up to students to decide for themselves whether they can justify seeking employment in the military. It's up to them, not the school, to make that decision for them. Yet, contrary to the main argument of the law schools challenging Solomon, there's no First Amendment issue here. They are still completely free to caution their students of the military's policy. In fact, in the case of Cornell and its "Open Hearts" mantra, it should do so in order to remain credible.

In past semesters, student activists have sought to undermine military recruiters by engaging them, then following the discussion with a revelation (whether true or not) that they are gay. Of course, this falls within the rich legacy of creative student activism at Cornell. What always made me a bit skeptical of their intentions, however, was the tendency for these activists to have explicit anti-military agendas. That's fine, of course, but my own view is that ROTC provides a valuable service to lower-income students, plus, it's part of Cornell's land-grant history and something that makes it unique. Those who don't want the military on campus should state so explicitly rather than doing it under the guise of opposing "don't ask, don't tell."

The Solomon decision is a victory for the rule of law and free speech. The last remaining battle: integrating gays into the military, as Truman did with African Americans in 1948. Then, this will no longer be an issue. Law school faculty should focus on making such legislation a priority instead; it's Congress, after all, that governs the military -- not the secretary of defense.

(Crossposted: the guess pulpit)

Andy Guess | Posted on March 06, 2006 (#)


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