High court affirms UConn ban on military recruiters

College Press Service

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Connecticut Supreme Court has refused to lift the ban on military recruiters at the University of Connecticut law school, ruling that the Pentagon's policy on homosexuals violates the state's gay-rights statute.

The ban has been in place since 1992, after gay law students at UConn filed a suit complaining that the military did not qualify as an equal opportunity employer because of its discriminatory policy against homosexuals.

A state Superior Court judge ruled then that discriminatory employers, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, which at that time barred all homosexuals from its ranks, could not use campus facilities for recruiting.

The university's trustees, represented by the state attorney general's office, appealed the decision. In a 3-2 decision March 19, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the 1992 ruling, finding that the state statute on gay rights takes precedent over the law allowing employers to interview students using campus facilities.

The court found that gay students "have been denied equal placement opportunities because the career services offices allocated resources to the military, which would not, regardless of (gays') abilities and talents, hire them."

Because the Connecticut Supreme Court decision is based on state law, it cannot be appealed. University officials are reviewing the decision to see if the ban should be extended beyond the law school.

John Britain, a UConn law professor and adviser to a gay-student group, described the ruling as a "a curve ball rather than a straight shot" because the court relied more on the technicalities of state law to reach a decision rather than make a judgment on the discriminatory nature of the policy.

Still, Britain said, "I find it an irony that the military that effectively bars gay men and lesbians have in fact been barred from the University of Connecticut law school."

Public and private colleges have long grappled with the issue of whether to open their campuses to military recruiters and ROTC programs. Currently, the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy restricts openly homosexual men and women from serving in the armed forces.

In Massachusetts, a committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently offered several recommendations to the MIT faculty on how to administer ROTC programs, which draw about 220 students from Harvard and Tufts universities, MIT and Wellesley College.

One recommendation includes the creation of a "model" ROTC unit that would not discriminate on any basis. If that is impossible, then MIT should renew any military scholarships lost by "dis-enrolled" homosexuals and work on changing Pentagon policies, the committee said.

MIT would stand to lose funds from the Department of Defense for research or other purposes if it does not preserve its ROTC program.

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