More on Civil Rights

Further evidence that gay rights are the civil rights of our time:

A federal Court of Appeals panel has ruled in a 2-1 decision that campuses can place restrictions on US armed forces recruiters as a protest against the military’s discrimination against gays.

A lawyer representing the law schools states: “Now every academic institution in the country is free to follow their consciences and their nondiscrimination policies. Enlightened institutions have a First Amendment right to exclude bigots. In a free society, the government cannot co-opt private institutions to issue the government’s message.”

This issue is not new. When I was at Harvard twenty years ago, well before “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” ROTC was banned from campus for similar reasons. (Students who wanted ROTC training could get it at the “trade school up the river” – MIT.) But the main issue galvanizing student protest at that time was whether the University should divest itself of investments in South Africa to protest apartheid. It was an instance of the international pressure that helped bring apartheid down.

The dissenting judge in the present case points out that “the military’s policy against homosexual activity has been adjudged by a number of our sister courts of appeal not to violate the Constitution.” He’s right, of course. But apartheid in South Africa, along with Jim Crow laws and the “separate but equal” doctrine in the US, had the force of law. That didn’t make them right.