Yale bows to court on gay military rule

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am

Yale Law School will end its policy of not working with military recruiters following a court ruling this week that jeopardised about US$300 million in federal funding.

Yale and other universities had objected to the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that allows gay men and women to serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves. Yale Law School had refused to assist recruiters because the Pentagon would not sign a nondiscrimination pledge.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Yale, rejecting its argument that its right to academic freedom was infringed by federal law that says universities must give the military the same access as other job recruiters or forfeit federal money.

'The fact is we have been forced under enormous pressure to acquiescence in a policy that we believe is deeply offensive and harmful to our students,' said Robert Burt, a Yale law professor who was lead plaintiff in the case.

The funding loss would have devastated the university's medical research into cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, Professor Burt said.

Yale Law dean Harold Koh said he was disappointed by the decision, saying the school had an obligation to 'ameliorate the impact' of discriminatory hiring practices.

'We intend to meet this obligation and will work alongside our students to identify the best ways of doing so, in accordance with the law,' he said. 'We continue to look forward to the day when all members of our community will have an equal opportunity to serve in our nation's armed forces.'

Jan Conroy, a Yale Law spokeswoman, said the school would waive the requirement that military recruiters sign the nondiscrimination pledge. The air force has already asked to participate in a job interview programme that starts on Monday.

The 2nd Circuit decision followed the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling last year that the government could force colleges to open their campuses to military recruiters. The justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and professors, who said they should not have to associate with military recruiters or promote campus appearances.