Cleveland--�If this was about race or gender, it would be clear,� said protest organizer Michael Grossman, �but because it is sexual orientation, it doesn�t get the same respect as other discrimination problems.�
Grossman is the president of the Cleveland-Marshall law school�s chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. His organization led a protest against the military Judge Advocate General�s recruiter on the campus February 16.
Students protested the recruiter because the military�s �don�t ask, don�t tell� rule against gays and lesbians violates the non-discrimination policies of Cleveland State University, of which the law school is a part.
Twenty-seven law students demonstrated outside the� school at noon while an Army JAG spoke to first-year law students inside.
Protesters explained how the federal Solomon Amendment prohibits federal funds, including student financial aid, from going to schools that bar military recruiters because of the gay ban. They gathered signatures against the� recruiters.
Most passers by listened and signed the petitions. A few heckled.
An irritated student who refused to be identified challenged Grossman, asserting that law students need jobs, and the JAGs provide an employment opportunity.
Grossman responded that racist employers would not be allowed on campus even though they provide jobs for white students.
�Today Cleveland-Marshall finds itself between a rock and a hard place,� said Grossman. �If it follows its own non- discrimination policy, the JAG recruiter would not be here. But because of the Solomon Amendment, standing up for its own convictions means losing all federal funds including all grants and all student aid for the entire school.�
Grossman wants Cleveland-Marshall to lead other universities in an attempt to stand up to the government.
He pointed to a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision in November that ruled the Solomon Amendment unconstitutional.
That decision, FAIR v. Rumsfeld, came about when a group of private law schools challenged the law based on their First Amendment rights under the doctrine of free speech, and won.
Grossman said it�s time to get a similar decision in the Sixth Circuit, which covers Ohio. He added that the Third Circuit decision gives Ohio schools the opportunity to have a 1995 state law requiring public universities to host military recruiters declared unconstitutional for the same reason.
�Now is the time,� said Grossman. �We�re not going to sit idly by. The [Third Circuit] has given us leverage. Other schools would be liberated to enforce their non- discrimination policies because Cleveland-Marshall took a stand.�
But according to Assistant Law School Dean Linda Ammons, that is not likely to happen.
Ammons, who said the students protest is a great study in administrative law, which she teaches, added that the law school is in no position to do what the students want it to do.
The Cleveland-Marshall action is the first of its kind at a public Ohio university. The students of Kenyon College, a private school in Gambier, protested military recruiters in 1997.
The protesters were joined by members of co-sponsoring groups, including the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Cleveland Bar Network, Students for Public Interest Legal Organization and Cleveland State Pagans.
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