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A bill that would guarantee military recruiters equal access to college students is currently pending in the U.S. Senate.

House Resolution 3966 -- called the ROTC and Military Recruiter Equal Access to Campus Act -- was passed by the entire House of Representatives at the end of last month and is intended to clarify the Solomon Amendment, which guarantees recruiters equal access to campuses.

Some schools, however, claim that it is their right to refuse access to recruiters from the military because of its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians, which schools say is discriminatory.

The Solomon Amendment, passed in 1996, ties federal funding to on-campus military recruitment and permits the government to deny money to universities that refuse access to the recruiters. The amendment also requires schools to submit student directory information to all recruiters.

The new legislation would also add the CIA and the National Nuclear Security Administration to the list of defense-related agencies to which universities must guarantee equal access.

"Our all-volunteer military needs highly qualified recruits to fill its ranks," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said in an e-mail interview. "This legislation ... helps ensure military recruiters have equal access to our nation's best and brightest, just like any other company recruiter on campus."

The Penn School of Law and other academic institutions, including Yale Law School, have sued the Department of Defense, claiming that the Solomon Amendment prohibits them from exercising their anti-discrimination policies relating to gays and lesbians.

It "interferes with our rights of speech, our right to protect our students, right to control our academic environment," Yale Law professor Robert Burt said. "It makes us an active participant in a discriminatory policy that violates our moral norms."

According to Burt, the Solomon Amendment forces universities to provide equal access to the services of their career development offices only to employers who sign a nondiscrimination pledge.

Both Yale and Penn do not believe that they should be required to comply with all of the provisions of the amendment.

"If an employer pledges to us that they don't discriminate ... we'll help you by giving you access to the services of our career development office," Burt said.

However, "if you don't sign our pledge, and the military doesn't," then Yale agrees only to give the employer the names, addresses and phone numbers of students, he said. "We aren't helping you by giving you the services of the career development office."

In contrast, the DoD has said that "the Solomon Amendment requires you to give complete access to services of career development," Burt added. "We're saying that's not the right reading of the amendment."

The lawsuits are currently pending, and some experts have said they could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before being decided.

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