Wearing business suits and camouflage-patterned gags, about 50 Yale Law School students stood silently outside of the Courtyard Marriott protesting the arrival Monday of recruiters from the U.S. military, which forbids the service of openly gay Americans, on campus.
Inside the hotel, recruiters for the Air Force and Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps prepared to participate in a Law School interview program for the first time since 2005.
“OutLaws” — a group representing the Law School’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — organized the protest partly in response to the recruiters’ arrival.
Recruiters had not been allowed at the Law School’s interview program until last month, when a federal court ruled in Burt v. Gates that the school could not deny recruiters access to the program without jeopardizing $350 million the University receives in federal funding each year.
Forty-five members of the Law School faculty filed as plaintiffs in Burt v. Gates, arguing that the Solomon Amendment, which mandates that educational institutions allow recruiters access to career services or forfeit federal funding, violates free speech.
The military enacted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the 1990s because it determined that allowing gays to serve openly would “create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”
In order to allow the recruiters access, Law School Dean Harold Koh had to waive a policy requiring all recruiters to sign a non-discrimination policy requiring that employers do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, among other factors.
The protesters — holding posters enumerating the resources they say have been wasted because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — began their protest Monday morning on the steps of the Sterling Memorial Law Building. Fifteen minutes later, the students made a solemn procession across York Street and up to the Marriott. For the next half-hour, the protesters stood in a single file line in front of the Marriott, with American and Yale flags waving overhead.
Despite the protest and the Law School’s opposition to the military’s policy toward gays, Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Linell Letendre said the Law School was cooperative and that the Air Force had no difficulties scheduling a slot in the interview program.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Zeldis said the Navy seeks to recruit a “high quality and diverse force.”
The Air Force interviewed three individuals Monday, Letendre said. Zeldis would not disclose the number of students who interviewed for positions in the Navy.
The goal of the protest was to show the OutLaws’ resoluteness in the face of defeat, Sara Jeruss LAW ’08, the organization’s co-chair, said. The protesters did not simply oppose the recruiters’ presence, but rather the inability of openly gay students to interview for military jobs, she said.
“The message that we’re trying to get across is that we’re not defeated, and we’re going to continue to work for a day when ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed,” she said.
Another protester, Fredo Silva ’04 LAW ’08, said there is a need to keep the public informed about the unfairness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the frustrations of gay law students facing discrimination.
“It is discouraging for gay students to go through law school with lots of opportunities and then to be reminded that we are a minority,” Silva said.
In an official statement in the wake of the Burt decision, Koh said the Law School community will work together to support all of its members.
“Yale Law School has an obligation to ameliorate the impact of discriminatory hiring practices,” he said.