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Lawmakers Back Military Recruiting on Campus

The House on Wednesday urged the federal government to contest a court decision that would allow colleges to limit the activities of military recruiters on their campuses because of the military's ban on openly gay people.

The nonbinding resolution, approved 327-84, expresses support for a 1995 law that denies defense-related funding to universities that don't provide ROTC (search) programs and don't give military recruiters equal access to their campuses.

Last November a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) struck down the law, named for the late Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y. The court said the law infringed on the free-speech rights of law schools that had barred on-campus recruiting because of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning open homosexuality.

A U.S. District Court judge in New Haven, Conn., on Monday backed up that conclusion, ruling that Yale Law School (search) can block military recruiters from campus without losing federal funds because the law violates the school's constitutional free speech rights.

"This decision threatens to severely damage the ability of the military to recruit the highly qualified candidates necessary during a time of war," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., of the November ruling.

But opponents of the resolution said colleges with anti-discrimination policies are only preventing recruiters from using campus facilities, not from contacting students.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., added that supporters of the Solomon act "are the ones who are depriving the armed services of able-bodied people" because of the ban on gays. "You are the ones who have driven thousands, literally thousands, of perfectly capable men and women out of the military."

The Justice Department said last month that it will ask the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court's ruling, saying it needs law school access to fill the ranks of the military's Judge Advocate General Corps (search).

The House last year passed legislation that would have expanded the law to add CIA (search) and other military-related funding to the list of funds denied colleges that bar recruiters. The Senate never took up the legislation.