Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Take on the Soloman Amendment

The colleges in an uproar about the Soloman Amendment are way out of line. Here's why:

First: As Panda pointed out in a comment on my last post, we are dealing with a substantial amount of money here. If a couple of snoody law professors want to make a moral stand against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. military, they should feel free to... with their own money. The federal dollars that are being pumped into our medical school save lives, help create new doctors (who we lawyers can sue when they amputate the wrong limb), and create a net social benefit. To eliminate these important funds for some ineffectual and misguided political statement, is, as Panda says, stupid.

Second: As a liberal ans a supporter of a large centralized government, I believe Congress has the constitutional right to attach conditions to their appropriations. As a potential future charitable-giver, I would expect no less from organizations to which I might donate millions of dollars. I don't want my grant of $200,000, which I gave to establish a school newspaper in Oswego High to be used to publish a monthly porno mag. Its the government's money (yes I know its our tax money, but if you vote, then you consent to be ruled by the federal government and abide by the decisions they make) and they can spend it as they like.

Third: The military's stance on gays is not as absurd as one might think. I used to be rabidly against the military's exclusionary policies until my brother convinced me otherwise. There are major practical problems that come along with allowing gays into every branch of the military. The barracks problem alone creates far more costs than losing a few hundred gay soldiers every year. Now I acknowledge there may be some middle ground to be reached; perhaps letting gays serve in particular roles in the military. But there are real and legitimate considerations that have convinced me that allowing gays to serve in the front line is a completely untenable suggestion (I don't want to list the considerations here, but perhaps my elder and wiser brother can contribute to the comment section on this topic). That being said, recruiting military lawyers is probably one area in which we could allow gays in the military.

With all that being said, let the debate begin. Comment early and often.


Blogger warm fuzzy said...

"But there are real and legitimate considerations that have convinced me that allowing gays to serve in the front line is a completely untenable suggestion"

wow, really? I would like to hear these real and legitimate considerations.

That said, while I applaud your school's desire to take a stand against discrimination, it does seem to me that if they want the money, then they need accept some of the strings attached.

The orginazaiton I work for gets loads and loads of money from a local business. We want to keep the dough rolling in, so when employees of this company want to volunteer, they get 1st priority of duties. While this turns my stomach a bit, I have no choice but to bitch about it and then accept that it is a necessary evil and our program would be in serious trouble with out their help, so if they want the cushie jobs, they can have them.

Since I am often called an idealist (africa post notwithstanding), some of you may be surprised at my practicality here. I think your Univeristy should do what it can, and if it really cares about making a stand against discrimination, then it should get its funding somewhere else. If that is not feasible, then it should do what it can for the cause w/o shooting themselves in the foot.

It sounds to me like this business of them letting the military use the building next door is more about keeping up appearances than actually taking a serious stand against their hiring practices.

8:04 AM  
Blogger warm fuzzy said...

How on Earth did you change comments to comment(s)!!???!!!???!!!???

8:08 AM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

I would also like to hear the real and legitimate considerations. I would also point out that many gay people have already served on the front lines, and I would like to know how, exactly, that has been a problem.

"I can't share a room with a gay guy; he has to be in separate barracks" is not enough of a problem to justify discrimination. It is a problem that the heterosexual guy needs to get the hell over. If a gay guy is behaving in an inappropriately sexual manner in the barracks, that is a problem, and that (not his underlying orientation or the fact that he mentions his boyfriend back home) can be dealth with through disciplinary procedures.

I would also like to hear these real and legitimate considerations distinguished from the real and legitimate considerations people had with racial integration of the military. Just as many today are concerned that unit cohesion (which is essential to the functioning of the military) would suffer if gays were allowed in, many people were concerned that unit cohesion would be lost if units were racially integrated. They may have been rightly worried at first, but people got over it. Similarly, people will get over their homophobia if the military forces them to do so.

On the subject of the law school--part of my problem is that, as I understand it, the school does support military recruiters, allowing them to use their on-campus interviewing program, online system, career services office, etc. Only when they get here are they treated differently, and that treatment is silly and insignificant--"You have to go next door." I just don't think it's much of a principle.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

I can see I have gotten the sisters riled up with my support of the military's exclusionary policy. So I will see if I can briefly defend my position.

Although it may not be conceptually pleasing to we liberals who live in the middle of the United States far away from any fighting and warfare, it is the case that the men who make up the infantry and special forces are necessarily a macho bunch. The "Unit Cohesion" argument sounds a little wishy-washy from a theoretical position, but when you're out in the field on a cold night and you have to sleep three to a sleeping bag, the unit cohesion probably would break down.

Panda, I recognize that this argument could be and may actually have been used to justify a segregated army, but unlike skin tone, there are fundamental differences between gay men and straight men. The Army discourages the comingling of the sexes because it wants to avoid pregnant soldiers, the infighting that comes with relationships in tight quarters, and sexual assault. The military's approach to separating the sexualities should be no more pliant than their approach to separating the sexes.

None of these answers are satisfying to me as a pro-gay liberal, but I believe we have to give the military substantial deference. Neither you nor I know what its like to fight in a war, and I think its possible that its slightly different from working in an office. The military's exclusionary policy makes enough practical sense to me that I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and let them make the final decision in this case.

8:58 AM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

I think your view represents a serious underestimation of the military and the people in it.

Through its culture and its harsh disciplinary procedures, the military can manage to get people to do just about anything. People put up with not seeing their families for years, getting shot at, and giving up their most fundamental freedoms. But we think they can't get people to put up with a gay guy? Or that they can't get gay guys not to come onto or date other soldiers? I don't buy it.

This isn't about avoiding sexual relationships. If so, a one-gay-guy per-unit policy would be embraced. It's about straight guys being uncomfortable. Homophobia is real, but it's not any more real than racism was.

You could just as easily say, "You don't know what it's like to fight in a war. It's not nice to think about, but we can't have racial tension on the front lines." People did say things like that. But we didn't put up with that because it was so fundamentaly unjust. We made people in the military deal with it, and they did so spectacularly well. The military gets shit done. They could do the same here.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Additionally, other nations' military forces have integrated gay soldiers and don't have the unit cohesion problem.

The thing is, "unit cohesion" is such an incredibly vague notion that you can't really make useful decisions based on it.

I wanted to ask those of you who paid attention in Con Law whether there's a federalism issue here with the tying of state funds to accepting military recruiters. My quick search on google yields only this argument: That to withdraw funds from schools based on Soloman may function as viewpoint discrimination. Which may make sense for an historically/religiously pacifist institution, but doesn't really seem to fly wrt other schools.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

So I quickly perused the Rumsfeld v FAIR briefs, and this is what I've got. FAIR is arguing 1st amendment violations wrt speech and association by the Solomon amendment. Thing is, there's a bunch of civil rights legislation that depends on exactly this sort of Solomon-esque persuasion in order to work, so it would open some cans of worms if Solomon were to be found unconstitutional.

As an aside, those briefs look NOTHING AT ALL like what a certain guy with a certain sister taught us to write. I don't know if I'll ever get legal writing.

9:17 AM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

Even when the government is subsidizing private activities, there are limits on the conditions it can attach to those subsidies. I only know about govermnent subsized speech: generally, when the (a) the govt subsidizes speech and (b) the govt is not acting as the speaker itself (as it would be in a direct a military recruiting ad campaign), it can't condition the subsidy on adherence to a particular viewpoint.

This case is less clearly about speech, so I don't know much about it. I just wanted to make the point that just because it's government funding doesn't mean they can attach whatever conditions they want to it.

9:32 AM  

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