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State Supreme Court Upholds Ban on
Military Recruitment at University

By Brigitte Greenberg, AP, 20 March 1996

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's highest court has ruled that the U.S. armed forces cannot recruit at the University of Connecticut Law School because the military discriminates against homosexuals.

In a 3-2 decision Tuesday, the state Supreme Court in Hartford upheld a lower court ruling that banned the armed forces from recruiting at the state-funded school because the military's policy on gays violates Connecticut anti-discrimination statutes.

We conclude that the United States military is presently prohibited from recruiting on the law school's campus because of its current discrimination against gay men and lesbians, Justice Joette Katz wrote for the majority.

Civil rights activists hailed the decision as a precedent that could affect the U.S. military's ability to recruit on campuses nationwide.

What it says generally is that if the military continues to discriminate against lesbians and gay men, then it will be subject to non-discrimination laws as they exist around the country, said Marc Elovitz, an attorney with the national American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit was filed by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and its national counterpart, the ACLU, in 1992 on behalf of homosexual students at the University of Connecticut's law school.

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Col. Doug Kennett said the Pentagon had not yet seen the ruling.

We've have to study it before we would comment on it, Kennett said.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office argued that the state's anti-discrimination laws make an exception for the military, said Tuesday that he would consult with university leaders to determine if changes are necessary.

We respect the court's decision and opinion in the case although our position was to the contrary, Blumenthal said. We will discuss with the university it's future course of action consistent with the reasoning and outcome of this case.

Attorney Philip Tegeler, who represents the Gay and Lesbian Law Students Association at the school, argued that the statute prohibits all state agencies, including educational institutions, from opening their facilities to those who discriminate.

The lawsuit charged that the school had violated students' rights by allowing an organization that discriminates to recruit on state property.

Kenneth Bartschi, 30, a third-year law student from Hartford and a plaintiff in the case, said he was happy with the decision.

It's a matter of, `Are you going to treat students like second-class students?' The law school is a place where people should be treated equally, Bartschi said.

The military's policy of not recruiting homosexuals was loosened under the Clinton administration's don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue order, but advocates say the policy doesn't go far enough to prevent discrimination.

In July 1994, a Superior Court judge ruled that the school had violated the state's human rights law and permanently barred the school from letting the military use the college's facilities to recruit. Since then, students have had to go off campus for their interviews.

The state appealed the ruling. In arguments before the high court last October, Assistant Attorney General Paul M. Shapiro didn't argue that the military treats everyone equally, but instead contended that, taken together, the state's laws include a military exemption.

Shapiro noted that the state Legislature made an exemption in its 1991 anti-discrimination law for the Reserve Officers Training Corps, which is a training program for would-be military personnel rather than a recruiting program.

The state Supreme Court didn't agree with that argument.

But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Robert J. Callahan wrote that he didn't believe the statutes were intended to strip the military of its ability to recruit.

I would interpret the public acts and their legislative histories to allow the military, despite its practice of discrimination against certain protected classes, to nonetheless be provided the same opportunity to recruit on state campuses as a private employer, Callahan wrote.