In an era of increased emphasis on gender equality in American culture, the nation’s Selective Service System has remained rooted in traditional beliefs regarding military service. Even amidst a push across all military branches to open combat occupational specialties to females starting in 2015, the idea that women could be required to serve if their nation were to call on them just like their male counterparts has remained the subject of debate. Now, however, a federal judge has ruled that America’s male-only draft is “unconstitutional,” though he notably stopped short of mandating a change to the system that would include women.
Texas-based U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled on Friday that “the time has passed” for debate regarding whether or not women belong in combat roles within the military, saying that restrictions based on gender “may have justified past discrimination,” but in a world where men and women are equally able to fight, women should share in the service obligations represented by the draft.
“The male-only registration requirement of the Military Selective Service Act, 50 U.S.C. § 3802(a) violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Miller concluded.
All men in the United States are legally required to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Failing to do so could lead to a number of potential ramifications ranging from being denied publicly accessible benefits to securing some forms of employment. Females, however, have no such legal obligation, nor do they face similar potential repercussions. Though, according to the two men that began the suit that led to this ruling—Texas resident James Lesmeister and Anthony Davis of the San Diego-based National Coalition for Men—a male-only draft speaks to a form of systemic sexism that places a lesser value on the lives of men.
The National Coalition for Men describes themselves as a non-profit educational organization “that raises awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys.” They have also been accused of outing potential rape victims by posting their names and photographs alongside allegations of their making false claims.
“Forcing only males to register is an aspect of socially institutionalized male disposability and helps reinforce the stereotypes that support discrimination against men in other areas such as divorce, child custody and domestic violence services,” said their attorney, Marc Angelucci.
“Women are now allowed in combat, so this decision is long overdue. After decades of sex discrimination against men in the Selective Service, the courts have finally found it unconstitutional to force only men to register.”
There is already a national commission underway studying the topic of whether or not women should have to register for the draft, and Miller was reportedly asked to either dismiss the case or hold off on any ruling until the results of that commission were released. Miller, however, contended that the study could take years and even then, Congress has no legal requirement to adhere to the study’s recommendations.
“Congress has been debating the male-only registration requirement since at least 1980,” Miller wrote in his explanation.
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