Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Years Later, Hard Choices About Solomon Live On

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling upholding the Solomon Amendment, a Congressional law that requires colleges and universities to permit military recruiting on campuses, or face losing federal funding for their entire university systems. The ruling, which came following a challenge by numerous law schools that refused to cave in on their non-discrimination policies by allowing the U.S. military on campus, seemed to settle the issue - for publicly funded schools, at least - once and for all. And, as I noted in The New York Times at the time, it also provided an opportunity to re-focus the campus debate on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the campaign for repeal and the stories of LGBT Americans who want to serve, and have already done so.

Not surprisingly, immediately following the ruling, many colleges announced they would comply with the justices' decision. Not doing so, after all, would have meant colossal cuts in budgets for many critically important institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, which receives millions of dollars in public funding for often ground-breaking research and testing. But this week, the issue has re-emerged as one school, which is also the recipient of significant federal funds, expressed dismay at the possible return of military recruiters to its campus.

Columbia University's President is taking a principled, and potentially costly, stand against LGBT discrimination. In an email recently sent to students, Lee Bollinger declared that he was concerned about the possible return of an ROTC program to the campus, because of the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that bars openly gay Americans from the armed forces.

"Under the current 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy of the Defense Department, openly gay and lesbian students could or would be excluded from participating in ROTC activities. That is inconsistent with the fundamental values of the university," he said in his message to the Columbia community.

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