Steve Ralls

The Price of Principles

Filed By Steve Ralls | July 01, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, law schools, military, New York Times, Solomon Amendment, Vermont

The New York Times reported on Sunday that at least one law school, in its efforts to combat the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, is paying a price for standing on principle.

Vermont Law School is one of only two universities in the country that continue to bar military recruiters from its campus because the U.S. armed forces will not hire openly gay recruits... a violation of the school's non-discrimination policy. Following a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that found schools must allow recruiters on campus or, if they decide not to out of protest, lose all federal funding, most colleges and universities relented, noting that a freeze on federal money would cripple many of their academic endeavors.

But Vermont, along with William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, continues to deny recruiters access to students, refusing to back down from its policy of only allowing employers who include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies to visit the campus.

As the Times reports, that has meant a significant cut in dollars received from the government.

As a result, the school is denied some federal research money -- $300,000 to $500,000 a year by one outside analyst's estimate.

"Every once in a while an issue comes to a community and, despite a cost, it comes to the conclusion that it has to stand up for its principles," said Jeff Shields, president and dean of the law school. "It has to do with speaking truth to power, and it's one of those roles that those of us lucky enough to be trained as lawyers hopefully take from time to time."

And the Pentagon is not backing down.

"If the Department of Defense finds a school is doing this, it notifies other federal agencies and funding gets cut off," said Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, a department spokesman.

The result is a loss in important educational funding for schools, and, because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a loss of significant talent to the armed forces.

The military should have access to the best and brightest students on campuses across the country, but Congress should understand that the "best and brightest" includes LGBT students, too. They should not be denied the opportunity of a military career, if they choose one, simply because they are lesbian or gay. And colleges should not be denied important federal funding because they stand on principle that non-discrimination is a 'must.'

The easiest way to solve the entire dilemma is for Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The military, then, will be in compliance with non-discrimination policies, and universities like Vermont Law School won't have to risk a half-million dollars in funding because they want to do the right thing.

Originally posted at the PFLAG National Blog.


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In Canada, transgender people were allowed to serve openly before gay, lesbian and bisexual people were. In the US, transgender people are being affected by DADT. We have proof that trans people have been kicked out under DADT and have been asked if they were gay. How much proof do we need before we are added to this discussion? Steve?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 2, 2008 6:08 AM

You have to applaud the courage of individual colleges not to bend to the will of government. By colleges cowing under the government they are sending a message that LGBT persons are not among the best and brightest.

There are so few, so very few institutions, that would lose a penny to defend a principle. And then they wonder about how that lawyer or Wall Street trader could be so unethical? They learned it in school.

Personally I think that the Supremes got that one wrong. You have to allow access to the military in order to get federal funds? Uh, no. That's tyranny.

I don't think the military should have access to the best and the brightest. Talk about a waste of talent and resources!

We don't live in a military state, or at least I thought we didn't, and students can find out about military service off campus or online. If they really are the best and the brightest, they don't need someone on campus to point them in the right direction.