NEW HAVEN -- Three dozen students, dressed in interview attire and gagged, marched from the Yale Law School to a nearby hotel Wednesday to protest the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy involving gays.
The policy allows gays to join the military as long as they don't make known their sexual orientation, a situation that has led to the dismissal of some 12,500 service members since 1994, nearly 800 who held national security positions.
This is the second year the school has relented and allowed military recruiters to avail themselves of the formal interview process it arranges for employers willing to sign a non-discriminatory hiring pledge. Military recruiters from the Navy and Air Force were the only personnel out of some 70 employers who failed to do this.
Yale has always allowed the military recruiters to meet with interested students on its campus, but it did not include them in the interviews it arranges at the Courtyard by Marriott at Yale Hotel, until the government promised to make good on its threat to cut off the $300 million the university receives yearly in grants.
Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh came out at the beginning of the protest and read from the 2006 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which allows for the financial penalties.
He said the ruling made clear that students and faculty who disagreed with the amendment and the policy were free to make their objections known, while Koh also took issue with the arguments put forth by proponents.
"On 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' people have said gays serving next to straights disrupt unit cohesion. In Europe they have served next to each other for years. Their units seem pretty cohesive. ... In the U.N. forces, American soldiers serve next to openly gay soldiers -- they have pretty good unit cohesion. There are ways we can test and challenge the empirical accuracy of these assertions," Koh said.
On the eve of a presidential election, Koh said "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a policy that should be addressed by executive policy.
"(President) Harry Truman integrated the military," said Koh, who added that since the policy was adopted, the high court has ruled in favor of gay rights in a number of cases.
Craig Konnoth, a Yale law student who helped organize the protest, said this year they hoped to remind people of the importance of their vote in the election. Democratic candidate Barack Obama has pledged to repeal the policy, while Republican John McCain continues to support it.
"At the end of the day, the rationale for this policy is supposed to be the morale of the military. But I just don't think that you show solidarity through witchhunts of people's sexuality. I think that the way to show solidarity is to stand up with people who are fighting to serve their country, as we are trying to do today," Konnoth said.
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