Court Hears Campus Recruiting Case

US Marine over US supreme court AP / CBS

The Supreme Court will decide whether universities that accept federal money also have to open their doors to U.S. military recruiters.

The Bush administration is making the case for military recruiters on America's college campuses, even at schools that don't want them because of the Pentagon's policy on gays.

Solicitor General Paul Clement argues that when the government picks up the tab for things like research and education grants, the military also is entitled to demand "a fair shot" in terms of equal access for its recruiters to a university's "best and brightest."

And early signs suggest the Supreme Court may be ready to take this position. New Chief Justice John Roberts said schools unhappy with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy have a simple solution: turn down federal cash.

And Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring, said colleges can post disclaimers on campus noting their objections to military policy.

However, a few justices, including David Souter, worried that the free speech rights of law schools could be hindered by Congress' action of tying funding to military recruiters' access.

"The law schools are taking a position on First Amendment grounds, and that position is in interference with military recruiting, no question about it," Souter said.

The implications of the ruling, not expected for several months after Tuesday's arguments, would extend beyond military recruitment. Other strings could be attached when federal cash is doled out.

Federal financial support of colleges tops $35 billion a year, and many college leaders say they could not forgo that money.

Law school campuses have become the latest battleground over the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which allows gay men and women to serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves.

CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports this conflicts with the policies of many law schools, which forbid the participation of recruiters from public agencies and private companies that have discriminatory policies.

"What we are saying is we have a first amendment right not to have our resources go to discriminate against our own students," says Kent Greenfield, founder of Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the group, which challenged the Solomon Amendment.
  • Melissa McNamara

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