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In collegiate LGBTQ debate, Trump SCOTUS pick defended discrimination

by Jeremy Hooper

In the mid-1980s, the United States military had yet to even enact its discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, operating instead under an even more sweeping ban on openly LGBTQ soldiers whether they were silent or not. As they usually are on hot topics of the day, university students across this nation were embroiled in debate as to whether or not military recruiters should be allowed on their campuses, since the armed forces’ hiring practices were in violation of many of these schools’ own nondiscrimination policies.

Columbia University was one such school. In fact, the debate was so much on the minds of students that the Columbia Spectator, in the 1986 edition of its annual questionnaire for prospective student senators, put the question of military recruitment at the top of its list. The paper asked each of the senate candidates, quite simply:


A fair and straightforward question. And since the discrimination was so obvious, six of the candidates were quick to note it in their answers. For instance, one said:


Another student thought:


A third chimed in with:


And a fourth:


And there was this one:


Even the one that was a little more sympathetic to a discriminatory military still noted that there was indeed exclusion going on:


Because let’s be clear: There was crude exclusion going on. By the time Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed at the end of 2010, a wide majority of Americans had come to realize that even that Clinton era compromise was discriminatory. Keep in mind that this 1986 question predates even that! These students were talking about a government institution that told their LGBTQ friends they were born as unqualified Americans simply because they were born as they are. These students, who were all seeking student office, were right to use their free expression to speak out against their tuition dollars supporting this recruitment.

But there was a seventh young candidate for student senate, a young man named Neil, who also answered that 1986 survey. And when Neil did, he broke rank from all of the other six classmates seeking the student senator position, giving a long and convoluted answer that made no reference to the people at the center of the plight, instead focusing on “chosen lifestyles” and the apparent “free speech” of a government institution against its citizens:


“Free speech,” I will remind you, applies to governments shutting down their citizens from speaking. Columbia University was and is a private university that does indeed make all kinds of determinations on who can utilize space. Being a university, Columbia surely did and does offer venues to all kinds of groups, from all kinds of points of view---even controversial ones. And that’s great. But freedom also allows every private university to enact a nondiscrimination policy, and it allows for students to ensure that their university is acting in compliance. The politically active young man who answered this question in a way so dissimilar from the others is sidestepping the actual question at hand in order to raise points that have little application to the matter.

But young people grow up. And when they do, they move into careers. And sometimes, those careers lead them to new choices. New decisions. New judgements.

For instance, that career might ask this same, now-grown man to consider whether a for-profit company has the right to express itself against laws that the company simply doesn’t like. And Neil, now a circuit court judge, might once again side with religious-based limitation rather than fair enactment of fair policy:

Hobby Lobby Apt To Duck Affordable Care Act Contraceptive Rule [Law360]

Or Neil might take up writing, penning a piece for a conservative outlet where he argues that minority groups, like those suffering under the weight of a hefty military ban, have no options in the courtroom to remedy their poor treatment:

The Left’s alliance with trial lawyers and its dependence on constitutional litigation to achieve its social goals risks political atrophy. Liberals may win a victory on gay marriage when preaching to the choir before like-minded judges in Massachusetts. But in failing to reach out and persuade the public generally, they invite exactly the sort of backlash we saw in November [of 2004] when gay marriage was rejected in all eleven states where it was on the ballot.

Read more at: National Review Online

In fact, Neil’s career in the law might head so decidedly in one direction that experts in that chosen field note how closely his record aligns with one of the field’s most notoriously anti-LGBTQ figures:

In fact, one study has identified him as the most natural successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Trump shortlist, both in terms of his judicial style and his substantive approach.” [SCOTUSBlog]

And it’s possible that this now-grown Neil, who so closely mirrors Antonin Scalia, will then take these views and turn them into a lifetime appointment—on the United States Supreme Court:

President Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court [CNN]

So when considering such a big job that could affect the lives of LGBTQ people for decades to come, it’s important to consider whatever record we can find. Even his record from 1986:


[Columbia Spectator Archives]


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