An Army recruiter will visit the New York University School of Law soon, and in a scene oddly reminiscent of college campuses of the 1960s and '70s, the officer will encounter student protests and will probably be provided an escort (as was the case last year). These protests are not being conducted by virulent antiwar groups. They have been explicitly or implicitly endorsed by dozens of prominent institutions of higher education and media outlets. At issue is what is commonly referred to as the military's "policy" of not allowing openly gay or lesbian persons in the service.
What the media, students and most of the universities have often failed to mention is that this "policy" is not so much a policy as a statutory requirement. Specifically, Section 654 of the U.S. Code requires, in pertinent part, that the military adopt the procedure known as "don't ask, don't tell." To attribute this policy to the military without reference to the law misdirects the debate and unjustly stimulates animus toward the military. The subsequent focus on the military and "its policies" affords welcome political relief to the true agent of change for this issue: Congress.
To that end, the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel is considering a bill that addresses the policy and could replace it with a policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual preference.
And in December, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that will determine the federal government's ability to cut off funding to institutions of higher education that fail to provide equal access and assistance to military job recruiters.
The misconceptions here need to be corrected. And if one seeks to ignite social change, it is axiomatic that such action be directed at the agents of change rather than those humbly serving their country, for whom the winds of contention are far above their heads and well out of their hands.
-- Christopher M. Ford
West Point, N.Y.
The writer is a captain in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps and an assistant professor at the United States Military Academy, West Point. The views expressed here are his own.