NEWS

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October 4, 2005

Law students write to Supreme Court to fight amendment's constitutionality

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on December 6 about the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which states that law schools refusing military recruiters on campus should lose federal funds. Critics argue that the amendment discriminates against gays and lesbians, and a lower court ruled that it is unconstitutional.

Many law schools found themselves in a difficult position because they belong to the Association of American Law Schools, which has historically been a non-discriminatory group towards gays and lesbians. The military, however, maintains a long-standing position of not allowing homosexuals to serve openly in their ranks.

After the amendment was passed, many law schools abandoned the policies of the Association of American Law Schools, fearing the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding, and allowed military recruiters onto their campuses.

In the upcoming Supreme Court case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights Inc., many student law groups nationwide have begun working together to help New York attorney Jon Hafetz bring the case to the Supreme Court.

The University of Chicago's Outlaw, a law school student group dedicated to LGBT issues, joined the effort by helping write an amicus brief to the Supreme Court claiming that the Solomon Amendment is a violation of law schools' first amendment rights of association.

"This has been an amazing opportunity for us to fight against LGBT discrimination on a national level," said Ryan Kerian, co-chair of Outlaw. "This marks the first time of which I am aware in the history of the law school that a student-run organization has participated in a Supreme Court amicus brief."

Dennis Hutchinson, lecturer at the Law School and associate dean in the College, added, "Putting the merits of the case to one side, one needs to ask to what extent the academy is either politically right or wise to ask for special privileges from courts and at the same time dictate the terms upon which extremely generous financial support for the academy is granted."

The University recently decided to file a brief in support of Hafetz. "[The] news of the school filing their own brief has given us hope of more support in the future," Kerian said.