Hayes fights for military recruiters

CHAPEL HILL — Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., was among the leaders of a recent House resolution to express support for the continuation of a federal law that denies federal funding to colleges that do not allow military recruiters on campus. The resolution is in response to U.S. District Court of Appeals ruling in November that struck down the law.

Hayes was one of 24 cosponsors of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. The resolution offered continued support for the Solomon Amendment, which was adopted in 1994. At the time, the amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill called for the Department of Defense to deny federal funding to colleges that do not allow military recruiters the same access as other employment recruiters.

Since the amendment was first introduced, it has been expanded to include other branches of the government.

“I am a strong proponent of allowing our military recruiters the same access that other potential employers have on campus and believe that their ability to recruit should be unimpeded,” Hayes said.

Twelve of North Carolina’s 13 members of the House voted for the measure when it was approved Feb. 2, 327-84. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., was the only member of the North Carolina delegation to vote against the resolution.

“By denying recruiters the chance to offer these young men and women the opportunity to serve, these colleges and universities are doing a disservice to the safety and security of the United States,” Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said in a press statement in January.

Even with the resolution, the Solomon Amendment stands in limbo through the legal process. Members of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights and other groups sued the government claiming the Solomon Amendment was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

According to court documents, F.A.I.R. claims that law schools have a longstanding practice to bar employment recruiters from companies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Law schools were barring military recruiters because the military does not allow homosexuals to join the military.

A U.S. District Court upheld the Solomon Amendment arguing against F.A.I.R’s claims. A three-judge panel of the Third District U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Solomon Amendment, on appeal, violated First Amendment protections.

Writing the majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote that law schools can bar the military from recruiting students. Law schools, Ambro wrote, have a right to express the views it deems appropriate and the government, in this case the military, cannot force an opposing view on law schools. By doing so would be a free speech violation, he said.

“The Solomon Amendment requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objectives, and no compelling government interest has been shown to deny this freedom,” Ambro wrote. “While no doubt military lawyers are critical to the efficient operation of the armed forces, mere incantation of the need for legal talent cannot override a clear First Amendment impairment.”

Shannon Blosser (sblosser@popecenter.org) is a staff writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill .