Congress Adds Controversial Language To Defense Bill

Thu. May 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Washington, DC - The House and Senate Armed Services Committees yesterday added language to the FY2005 Defense Authorization Bill, guaranteeing a double-standard by which the military avoids compliance with universities' non-discrimination policies protecting students on the basis of sexual orientation. The proposed legislation strengthens the so-called Solomon Amendment, an existing law which forces universities to grant special exemption to the U.S. military for recruitment. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation (H.R. 3966) in March.

The legislation specifically requires colleges and universities to grant military recruiters access to campus in `a manner that is at least equal in quality and scope to the degree of access to campuses and to students that is provided to any other employer.' The bill is expected to be debated by lawmakers next week.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) opposes the legislation and advocated against the proposed language. "This isn't about recruiting. Military recruiters already have access to colleges and universities," Sharra E. Greer, SLDN's Director of Law & Policy, said. "In fact, the latest data from the Department of Defense indicates only one law school, a private institution, currently denies such access to recruiters. The Pentagon is simply trying to maintain its form of federally sanctioned discrimination on our nation's campuses. This bill is unnecessary and unfair."

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, included an amendment which exempts student aid from the federal funding which may be withheld from institutions that continue to bar recruiters.

"Senator Kennedy's important provision ensures that students receiving much-needed financial aid will not be unjustly punished," Greer said. "Access to education should never be predicated on the acceptance of anti-gay policy."