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Supreme Court to review law on campus military recruiting

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Congress may bar funding to law schools that prohibit access by military recruiters to students because of the federal government’s ban on open homosexuals in the armed forces.

The high court announced May 2 it would review a decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in favor of the law schools, which have antidiscrimination policies that include “sexual orientation” as a protected class. “Sexual orientation” includes homosexuality.

Oral arguments in the case will be heard in the 2005-2006 term, which begins in October.

In its 2004 opinion, the Third Circuit ruled Congress’ ban on federal funds for law schools that refuse to assist military recruiters is a “clear First Amendment impairment.” The law “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 freedom,” the court said.

The law in question is known as the Solomon amendment, which was passed in 1994 with former Rep. Gerald Solomon, R.-N.Y., as the sponsor in the House of Representatives. The original law barred only Department of Defense funds for violating schools, but a 1997 amendment also encompassed aid from other federal agencies, including the Department of Education.

Under the Solomon amendment an entire university could lose federal funds because of a policy of one of its graduate or undergraduate programs, although no school has lost such aid so far, according to The Washington Post.

The 1993 federal policy regarding homosexual service members is known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The policy permits members in the military who are not open about their homosexuality.

A federal judge in New Jersey refused to block enforcement of the Solomon amendment, and a coalition of law schools under the name Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) appealed to the Third Circuit.

The case is Rumsfeld v. FAIR.

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