United States Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Tom Campbell (R-CA) introduced legislation today that would allow students to receive college and university administered federal financial assistance even if their schools bar the United States military from recruiting on campus and from conducting ROTC programs.
The bill will partially repeal the restrictions on federal aid to institutions of higher education that were pushed through Congress as a rider on an appropriations bill in 1996. That provision requires the withholding of federal funds, including certain categories of financial aid, from colleges and universities with anti-discrimination policies that prohibit the military on campus.
"I am very pleased to join with Tom Campbell in this effort," Frank said, "and I am optimistic that we will get broad bipartisan support. However, this will only happen if students and faculty, and their friends and families, let their members of Congress know that this is a very important issue."
Stanford Law professor Deborah L. Rhode wrote in a recent National Law Journal column that the restrictions force "schools to pick between two disadvantaged groups: those who are denied career opportunities solely on the basis of sexual orientation and those who depend on financial aid to pursue a professional education."
Some colleges and universities, including many law schools, have adopted policies barring on-campus recruiting by organizations unless all students are eligible for employment by the recruiting group. The U.S. military is one example of an organization that has faced difficulty in recruiting on campus because the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (under which openly gay men and lesbians are barred from serving in the Armed Forces) is at odds with some campus anti-discrimination standards. The Frank/Campbell bill would restore student aid funds to law schools and other colleges and universities that have such policies, allowing them to continue to express their opposition to discrimination, while still ensuring that students who would benefit from campus based federal financial aid, like the Federal Work-Study program and the Perkins Loan program, are able to receive it.
Dan Barnett, an Associate Professor at Boston College Law School -- which has been active in the fight to reform the restrictions -- also expressed his support for the legislation. He said that "the major concern with existing law is that it pits students who need financial aid against gay and lesbian students. This legislation would end the anguishing situation schools face in trying to treat both groups of students fairly."