Alumni Short

2019 Statement on Military Recruitment at Cornell Law

Ithaca, NEW YORK, August 20, 2019


In April 2019, a federal policy banning some transgender persons from serving in the United States armed forces took effect. Dean Peñalver issued a statement when this policy was first proposed in summer 2017, opposing the ban and expressing our appreciation for military service members, including Cornell Law students and alumni, who have honorably served our nation. As educators at an institution committed since its founding to being a place where “any person can find instruction in any study,” we denounce the current policy in the strongest possible terms as antithetical to our institution’s oldest and most deeply held values.  

The ban also is inconsistent with our sworn commitment as members of the legal profession to pursue equal justice under law and to recognize the dignity of each human being. As the Dean said in his 2017 statement

[A] ban on transgender individuals serving in the military in any capacity is antithetical to our deepest held beliefs and to the bedrock principle of equal justice under the law.  A categorical prohibition of military service by transgender people, regardless of their qualifications, is lacking in any rational basis and is the epitome of invidious discrimination.

We believe that military service is honorable public service.  We also believe that any qualified individual who is willing to do so should be able to serve in our nation’s military.

The Law School’s nondiscrimination policy ordinarily requires denying access to employers who refuse to comply with our commitment to equal opportunity. Federal legislation known as the Solomon Amendment, however, permits the denial of federal funds to any educational institution that prohibits military recruitment on campus. Although we are not in a position to prevent the military from recruiting at our Law School as a result, we reiterate our commitment to provide support to members of our community who find the transgender military recruitment ban as troubling as we do. That support has been expressed by:

•    Posting written statements outside and inside the interview rooms that the military’s transgender service ban violates Cornell Law’s nondiscrimination policy. Dean Akyea also has read aloud such statements, written by students, during military recruiters’ visits.
•    Supporting Lambda and individual students who have drafted letters and petitions, or who have conducted informational tabling sessions outlining their opposition to the policy.
•    Planning programming featuring Cornell Law alumni and faculty from the LGBT and military communities to discuss the policy and its impact in an on-campus forum during the 2019-2020 academic year.

These actions are illustrative, not exhaustive. We look forward to ongoing discussions about actions the entire law school community can take to reaffirm our collective support for colleagues and classmates from all backgrounds. Feel free to schedule an appointment to meet with either of us or Dean Akyea in the Office of Public Service if you have any questions or concerns about the Law School’s position or need additional support.


Eduardo M. Peñalver, Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law 

Markeisha J. Miner, Dean of Students