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Military Recruiters to be Welcomed Back at Vermont Law School Once “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal is Finalized

May 3, 2011

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- Vermont Law School, which has denied access to military recruiters for more than 25 years, will notify the U.S. Department of Defense that its recruiters are welcome back on campus once the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law is finalized.

Professor Jackie Gardina

Professor Jackie Gardina.

VLS is one of only two law schools in the nation that prohibit military recruiters on campus because of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, which prevents gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military--and VLS is the only law school that foregoes some federal funds because of its stance on "don't ask, don't tell."

Legislation to repeal the law was approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in December, but the repeal won't be effective until 60 days after the president, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of defense certify that policies and regulations are in place and military readiness will not be affected. Once the repeal is finalized, VLS Dean Jeff Shields will notify the Pentagon that military recruiters are allowed back on campus.

VLS's nondiscrimination policy, which has remained unchanged since 1985, requires all employers to affirm that they do not discriminate based on protected characteristics, including sexual orientation. VLS's policy reflects no bias against the armed forces as a career for the school's graduates, but it opposes the military's long-standing discrimination in recruitment and discipline on the basis of sexual orientation.

Shields said VLS is eager to have military recruiters back on campus. He noted that many VLS alumni are veterans or currently serving in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. VLS students and JAG recruiters have maintained a strong relationship despite the impediment of having to meet off campus over the years-on average, VLS has the same number of graduates and interns entering JAG as law schools that allow military recruiters on campus nationwide.

Dean Jeff Shields

Dean Jeff Shields.

"This law school has stood fast to our position of principle, in the face of significant pressure, to insist that the ‘don't ask don't tell' law be repealed," he said. "Many of our trustees, staff, students and faculty, led by Professor Jackie Gardina, have worked hard for repeal of this law. We recognize the importance to the nation of having highly qualified lawyers in the armed services and the value to our students of the professional opportunities that JAG service provides. Our policy reflects our long and strongly held institutional belief that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation-like discrimination on the basis of race, gender and other prohibited grounds-is an unacceptable practice that weakens national unity and arbitrarily deprives all sectors of our society of the abilities of people of high talent and dedication."

Professor Jackie Gardina added: "Many members of the VLS community, past and present, have contributed to the repeal of this discriminatory law. I am honored to be part of such a community. The federal government, including the military, should be leaders when it comes to equality and nondiscrimination issues. To hold them to a lower standard than private employers would be wrong."

Gardina, a former board member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the president-elect of the Society of American Law Teachers, called for Defense Secretary Gates to halt all investigations and discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" while the repeal is being finalized.

Vermont Law School has prohibited military recruiters on campus almost continuously since 1985 when the school adopted a nondiscrimination policy for all employers. The policy prohibits employers from using its Career Services Office for recruitment on campus unless they give written assurance that they do not discriminate in hiring on a variety of grounds, including sexual orientation. JAG recruiters have declined to provide that assurance. In 1990, the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) adopted a requirement that member schools deny campus access for recruitment to employers who decline to provide written assurance that they do not discriminate on those grounds. VLS has operated under both its own and the AALS policies since 1990. The "don't act, don't tell" law was enacted in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise to excluding gay men and lesbians entirely from military service.

In 1995, Congress adopted the Solomon Amendment to withhold some federal money from law schools and universities that do not give military recruiters the same access to campus as other employers. In 2000, the Defense Department announced that if any school or department of a university prohibited military recruiters, the entire university would be denied federal funding under the Solomon Amendment. In response, the AALS suspended its nondiscrimination requirement so far as it affected JAG recruiters, but imposed more stringent requirements of Aamelioration@ upon law schools that allow JAG recruiters on campus. Since then, nearly all law schools affiliated with a college or university have bowed to central university pressure and allowed JAG to recruit on campus and have complied with the "amelioration" requirement. VLS, however, as an independent institution, has continued to deny military recruiters access to campus.

VLS has not sought federal appropriations, grants or contracts covered under the Solomon Amendment since 2000. The federal law has made VLS ineligible to receive federal funds from the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and certain related agencies. As a result, VLS has foregone the opportunity to receive an estimated $500,000 a year in federal funds. The school has continued to receive funding from other federal agencies. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Solomon Amendment, but the VLS faculty, trustees and students have repeatedly reaffirmed the school's nondiscrimination policy and its practice of denying access to military recruiters until the "don't ask, don't tell" law is repealed.

Read a commentary by Professor Gardina--Anatomy of Social Change: Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
Office: 802-831-1106, cell: 540-798-7099, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

 

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