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New York University School of Law’s D’Agostino Hall was the scene of a heated demonstration on Friday, as students supporting gay and lesbian rights protested the presence of military recruiters interviewing on campus. More than 20 student protesters gathered outside the entrance to the interview rooms as recruiters from the military’s Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) conducted interviews inside. The protesters were angered that a 2-year-old regulation — which expands the Department of Defense’s ability to withhold funds from schools barring its recruiters — has forced NYU to make an exception to its policy of denying access to recruiters that practice discrimination based on sexual orientation. “Private universities should be able to have and enforce non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation without fear of blackmail by the U.S. government,” said third-year law student Peyton McNutt, one of the leaders of Straights and Queers United Against Discrimination at NYU Law (SQUAD). The students, wearing pink arm bands and carrying sings with slogans such as “JAG Off,” and “Quiet Please, Discrimination in Progress,” locked arms and blocked the entrance each time a potential recruit arrived for his or her interview. After asking the potential interviewee several questions regarding his or her knowledge of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and NYU Law’s own anti-discrimination policy, the protesters stepped aside and allowed the student to pass. Under the government’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” military personnel can be gay as long as they do not tell anyone or act on it. “With the don’t ask, don’t tell policy the government is sending a clear message that there is a group of Americans that don’t share the same civil rights as others,” said third-year Marlee Ford, another SQUAD organizer. “The Department of Defense policy coerces a private institution that fought to establish a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation.” For over 20 years, the military had been banned from recruiting at NYU because the military’s sexual orientation policy violated the schools own anti-discrimination rules. The school maintained that position despite a 1995 act of Congress, commonly known as the Solomon Amendment, which gave the Department of Defense the power to deny funding to any school that does not allow military recruitment on campus. Like most other law schools, NYU permitted an exception to its anti-discrimination policy when the Department of Defense enacted a regulation in January 2000 that enabled it to deny its funds to an entire university when a part of the school refuses access to military recruitment. The new regulation meant that NYU would potentially lose millions of Defense Department dollars, many of which were earmarked for research at NYU’s medical school. STEPS TAKEN John Sexton, the law school’s dean, said in a statement issued to coincide with Friday’s JAG interviews that the law school “deplores” federal regulations that would mean a potential loss of “many millions of research dollars” to the university if the law school violates the Solomon Amendment. As a member of the American Association of Law Schools, which has its own policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, NYU is required to take steps to counteract the presence of the military recruiters. In addition to Dean Sexton’s letter, the school cites at least 16 other ameliorative actions it has taken since the new regulation was enacted. Some protesters expressed frustration, however, that the school was leaving most of the protesting to them. “I think that the ameliorative efforts have been lacking in the past,” said McNutt, citing the lack of faculty involvement at protests and forums arranged to discuss the subject. “It’s disheartening that the students have to be the ones to enforce faculty policy.” In addition to the activity taking place outside the interview rooms, some student protesters signed up for interviews with the intention of confronting the JAG recruiters. Capt. Jesse M. Arnstein, of the U.S. Air Force, interviewed at least one such student. “The questions were not about becoming a JAG. They were about the military’s homosexual policy,” Capt. Arnstein said. “I explained to her that I’m not here to discuss the homosexual policy but rather to explain the opportunities and advantages of becoming an Air Force JAG.” After a student trying to enter threatened one of the protesters blocking his path with physical violence, Vice Dean Stephen Gillers warned that disciplinary action would be taken against anyone who prevented the interviewees from entering. Saying he respected the rights of the protesters to confront the students interviewing, Gillers nevertheless would not allow the demonstrators to stop the interviews from taking place. “It’s university policy that demonstrators cannot block doors,” Gillers said. “We would not allow that any more than we would allow anti-abortion protesters to block access to a clinic.”

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