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Justices uphold campus military-recruiting law

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 today that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.

Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law-school professors who claimed they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 04-1152, called the campus visits an effective military recruiting tool.

"A military recruiter's mere presence on campus does not violate a law school's right to associate, regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter's message," he wrote.

Law schools had become the latest battleground over the "don't ask, don't tell" policy allowing gay men and women to serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves.

Many universities forbid the participation of recruiters from public agencies and private companies that have discriminatory policies.

The Court's decision upholds a law that requires colleges that take federal money to accommodate recruiters.

Roberts, writing his third decision since joining the Court last fall, said there were other, less-drastic options for protesting the policy. "Students and faculty are free to associate to voice their disapproval of the military's message," he wrote.

"Recruiters are, by definition, outsiders who come onto campus for the limited purpose of trying to hire students — not to become members of the school's expressive association," he wrote.

The federal law, known as the Solomon Amendment after its first congressional sponsor, mandates that universities give the military the same access as other recruiters or forfeit federal money.

College leaders have said they could not afford to lose federal help, some $35 billion a year.

When the Solomon Amendment was passed in 1994, many law schools gave military recruiters limited access. Harvard allowed the military on campus but declined to volunteer its career-placement staff to arrange interviews. The University of Southern California, meanwhile, allowed recruiters to interview but didn't invite them to school-sponsored job fairs off campus.

But after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon began strictly enforcing the measure. In the summer of 2003, Congress amended the Solomon Amendment to require equal access.

Since then, law schools have grudgingly complied but also filed lawsuits challenging the law. Last year, a federal judge in Bridgeport, Conn., ruled Yale Law School had a right to bar military recruiters from its job interview program, and similar cases were pending elsewhere.

The Court heard arguments in the case in December, and justices signaled then that they had little problem with the law.

Roberts filed the only opinion, which was joined by every justice but Samuel Alito. Alito did not participate because he was not on the bench when the case was argued.

"The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything," Roberts wrote.

High court hears case of military recruiters on campus
Several justices appear worried that law schools' free-speech rights could be hindered by Congress' tying of university funding to recruiter access. 12.06.05


Excerpts from Supreme Court arguments on military recruiters

Partial transcript of questions, remarks by U.S. Supreme Court justices, attorneys in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights. 12.07.05

Excerpts from, reaction to Rumsfeld v. FAIR
Quotes from and about Supreme Court's 8-0 decision. 03.07.06

Federal judge throws out suit challenging 'don't ask, don't tell'
Service members who argue policy violates their rights to privacy, free speech and equal protection say they may appeal ruling. 04.25.06

Federal judge dismisses lesbian's challenge of 'don't ask, don't tell'
Air Force nurse had claimed that being discharged under policy would violate her free-speech rights. 07.27.06

Gay veterans try again to topple 'don't ask, don't tell'
Group asks 1st Circuit to reinstate lawsuit, arguing that policy denies rights to privacy, free speech, equal protection. 11.15.06

Calif. campus scrubs job fair to avert military-recruiting protest
Citing safety concerns raised by previous anti-war demonstrations, UC Santa Cruz officials say they will reschedule event after additional security measures are developed. 01.12.07

2nd Circuit: Military-recruiting law doesn't violate academic freedom
Yale Law School, which objects to Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, says it will end ban on military recruiters after losing case. 09.20.07

6 First Amendment cases on fall docket
By Tony Mauro Topics involve campus military recruiting, hallucinogenic tea, public-employee speech, abortion protests. 09.26.05

Little sympathy for law schools' free-speech argument
By Tony Mauro Breyer seems to suggest that government is hurt by effort to shield students from military's policy on gays. 12.07.05

Roberts' remarkable feat in military-recruiters case
By Tony Mauro Chief justice manages unanimous ruling through narrow writing, assertions that First Amendment didn't apply in some areas. 03.07.06

Rumsfeld v. FAIR: What does it mean?
Online exchange by law professor Dale Carpenter, First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere about military-recruiters case. 03.09.06

2005-06 Supreme Court case tracker

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