The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a free speech challenge to the Solomon Amendment. The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) coalition of law schools challenged the constitutionality of the amendment, passed in 1996, which requires universities to grant military recruiters full access to students despite university non-discrimination policies which bar recruiters who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Congress had threatened to withhold millions of dollars in funding to schools refusing to comply. In November 2004, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of FAIR. Today’s court decision overturns the 3rd Circuit ruling. The Supreme Court did not consider the constitutionality of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in reviewing the Solomon challenge.

“With or without the Solomon Amendment, our armed forces should lead, and not follow, in their commitment to equal opportunity,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN). “The U.S. military was far ahead of civilian society in welcoming the talents of African Americans, and women have long found opportunities in military job fields that were unavailable in other sectors. Military leaders have a significant interest in being able to recruit among the best and brightest Americans, and the best and brightest include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender recruits, too. Every commander who values qualification above prejudice should join SLDN in calling on Congress to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

Since 1993, nearly 10,000 men and women have been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that nearly 800 of those discharged had skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Department of Defence. A Congressional bill to repeal the law, introduced in March 2005 by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA), is now supported by a bi-partisan coalition of 110 lawmakers. A constitutional challenge to the law, filed by SLDN on behalf of twelve veterans discharged because of sexual orientation, is currently pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

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