The seven students stood at attention – feet apart, faces solemn and mouths duct-taped. Across the tape, written in black marker, was the word “unfit.”
These students, along with other law students from the Military Recruiting Task Force, gathered outside the School of Hotel Administration yesterday to protest the military’s controversial “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The policy, introduced as a compromise measure by President Bill Clinton in 1993, gives military commanders the authority to discharge soldiers who either declare their homosexuality or give convincing evidence of their gay orientation.
Augustin Le law ’07, who is co-president of Lambda Law Students Association, Cornell Law School’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered student organization, said the protest aimed to generate awareness of the military’s policy and to “show military discrimination is not okay.”
Many of the protesters’ mouths were duct-taped, explained Lisa Newstrom law ’08, “because we felt the real harm of the policy is that it [stops] service members from telling the truth about who they are.”
She continued, “Since the effect of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the military is to silence gays and lesbians in the military, we thought it was appropriate.”
Alongside the silent protesters, other law students handed out fliers that gave statistics on the damage of the military’s policy.
According to the flier, a conservative estimate places the number of LBGT service members in the military at 65,000.
Since the policy began, 10,335 service members have been discharged under the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the flier states.
How strictly the policy is enforced varies from command unit to command unit, said Amy Philips law ’07, co-president of Lambda Law Students Association. Philips previously served in the military.
The handout also estimates the policy’s cost to the nation at $281,499,971. This cost includes the cost of training service members who are later discharged, Newstrom said.
Around the time of the protest, military recruiters were in the nearby Statler Hotel interviewing students for jobs according to Newstrom.
The law students’ protest yesterday marks a shift in attention from the Solomon Amendment to the actual “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy itself.
The Solomon Amendment is a piece of legislation that denies federal funding to schools that restrict military recruiting. The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the amendment on Dec. 6.
Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Senior Editor