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Reaction to Supreme Court decision to uphold veterans' preference laws. Veterans' preference, discrimination, and women's rights in the military are discussed.


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SPEAKER: Minnesota State law gives veterans preference in hiring over higher-scoring, non-veteran civil service applicants and a one-shot, five-point preference in promotion once hired. The law was recently challenged under the instigation of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union by a broad spectrum of Minnesota citizens, including Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Patton, himself a veteran.

DAVID PATTON: The first exam that I had an opportunity to take was an examination for sergeants. And I was forced into applying my five points at that point. After passing the test, then I had to apply my five points in order to hold my position on that list.

I did move up a notch or two, but I would have been able to make it without the veteran's preference. But because of the fact that all the people behind me had veteran's preference, I had to apply it in order to make it at all. So then when the next test came along for the position of detective, I no longer had veteran's preference.

And although I finished high enough in the exam to make it, after everyone else applied their veterans preference, I was so far down on the list that there was no way I could make it. And I now find myself in the position where we're without veteran's preference. I'm probably not going to be able to ever get another promotion.

SPEAKER: Attorney Larry Leventhal representing Patton and about 20 others argued that the law violated federal discrimination statutes.

LARRY LEVENTHAL: Somebody who is not a veteran is unlikely to get a job in which veterans are interested in receiving. And this does lead to discrimination in other areas. One which, I think, is a rather large area is that of women.

Women, of course, make up a small portion of the service. But it's not just because they haven't had the incentive to join the service, there really aren't the facilities in the programs for them in the different branches. And in actuality, each of the services, except for the Navy limits their ratio of women to 2% of the total service force.

SPEAKER: Leventhal discounts the argument that veterans are owed a debt of gratitude by the state for their service.

LARRY LEVENTHAL: The reasons which are generally given, I think, have a lot less validity than seems apparent at first. But I guess we also owe a debt of gratitude to those who are serving in the fire departments, those who are teaching, those who are cleaning the streets. And if we start measuring the total amount of respect of gratitude we owe to various groups, I think, we're going to be getting ourselves in quite a quagmire.

SPEAKER: Today, the United States Supreme Court disagreed. The court found that the preference law raised not an equal protection question as the plaintiffs had argued but rather a question of due process of law in which the proper test is of rationality. "We found," the court said, "that it was not irrational for the legislature to determine that the state owed veterans a debt of gratitude and that it could best be paid by granting a preference in employment." Citizens we questioned in downtown Saint Paul today generally agreed with the high court's ruling.

SPEAKER: Well, I just don't feel as if they're doing enough for the vets the way it is. That's the way I feel about it, too. It's hard to say--

SPEAKER: I suppose if I were out looking for a job somewhere and I was confronted with this why I might have mixed emotions, I suppose I would. I don't know for sure.

SPEAKER: The way I look at it, the guys that spend time in the service. They were out of opportunity to get a job while they were in. They should be first in line when they get out.

SPEAKER: No, I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's fair to the people back home because I mean there's two ways to fight wars or whatever they call them. No, I don't-- I don't think it's fair.

SPEAKER: If they were equally qualified, I would say the veteran.

SPEAKER: Well, I look at it he was gone, and I was here. So I had a built-in advantage while he was gone. Now they're just reversing it. So I don't think I'd really be, too, shook up.

SPEAKER: Considering what they've been through, I agree with it. I feel that they should have something for what they've given up.

SPEAKER: I believe I would conclude that the veterans should have preference assuming that it was an objective analysis of their respective qualifications and that there wasn't an emotional decision that was less than objective that made the employer think that he had to hire him. If their qualifications were equal and on an objective rating, then I would have to give preference to the veteran.

SPEAKER: I'm a veteran myself. So I guess it would benefit me. I don't really think it's fair though. I think everyone should be treated equally. And if they have the same qualifications, they should see the same consideration.

SPEAKER: I just-- I just think they deserve it. What the heck? Don't you?

SPEAKER: Citizens reacting today to the Supreme Court's ruling upholding veterans preference laws.


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