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MIT Attacks 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy

By Frank Dabek
Associate News Editor

MIThas filed a friend of the court brief in support of a case which has the potential to overturn the military's "don't ask, don't tell"policy towards homosexuality in the military, which conflicts with MIT's policy of non-discrimination.

The brief was filed before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Lieutenant Colonel Jane Able v. United States of America by the law firm of Palmer and Dodge, which represents the Institute. The brief argues in favor of upholding a lower court decision which declared the "don't ask, don't tell" policy currently in use by the U.S. military to be unconstitutional.

MITis hoping to find a permanent solution to reconcile its non-discrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, with that of the armed forces, which calls for openly homosexual individuals to be discharged from the military.

Currently, ROTCstudents who are discharged from the military as a result of their sexual orientation are guaranteed an MITgrant equal to their ROTCscholarship under an interim policy released last year.

MIT organizes, funds brief

"MIT has been the active party" in the creation of the brief and in soliciting other schools in support of the brief, said Jeffrey Swope, a partner at Palmer and Dodge and a co-author of the brief. "MIT is bearing the cost" involved in preparing the brief, he said.

The brief was filed on behalf of the American Council of Education, which represents over 1,700 colleges and universities. Several educational associations, encompassing over 1,000 other schools, were also named.

The lower court in Able v. U.S. declared the "don't ask, don't tell" policy to be an "unconstitutional violation of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment [and] of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment," the brief said.

The schools involved, including MIT, state in the brief that they are interested in the case because the "[don't ask, don't tell] policy interferes with the ability of colleges and universities to offer ROTC programs in conjunction with the Department of Defense without violating their own policies against discrimination."

Case could end current policy

If the case is upheld by the appellate court and not overturned by the Supreme Court, it could lead to an end of the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The lower court decision "makes the policy invalid," Swope said. "Don't ask, don't tell' becomes null."

At that point it would be up to the military to decide if they desired to implement another policy limiting openly homosexual individuals from serving in the military. If the court's ruling is broad enough, however, it is possible that there may not be a new policy, Swope said.

In 1990, the faculty at MIT voted to condemn the then-ROTC policy, which they found to violate MIT's policy of non-discrimination. A five-year working group was later created to review the problem. Since then, MIT has implemented model and then modified ROTC programs as temporary measures until the military changes its policy.