Women are invading a man’s military, or at least that’s the perception you’ll get if you read some online comments on news articles and Facebook posts regarding DOD’s decision to allow women to serve in all combat roles.
The decision has been made: Women will be able to be Army Rangers or Navy SEALS if they can pass the same standards as their male counterparts.
But like all great decisions in our military’s history (think President Harry Truman’s order of racial integration in the 1940s or the more recent elimination of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding homosexuality), the policy decision is only the first step. The fallout of these policies and how they will be applied are equally as historic, yet they lack headline appeal.
Let’s examine the current issue—women in the military.
Since women will soon be able to serve in all aspects of the military, is it time for women to be required to register for the draft? Is the act of requiring 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service the final step in gender integration of the U.S. military?
One New Jersey teen thinks so. A class-action lawsuit filed by a 17-year-old through her mother asserts that the Military Selective Service Act violates the civil rights of women aged 18 to 25 by making them ineligible to sign up for the draft registry.
“With both males and females available for such roles today, the two sexes are now similarly situated for draft registration purposes and there is no legitimate reason for the government to discriminate against the female class, so equal protection applies,” says the complaint, cited by Courthouse News. “Further, with both males and females available for such combat roles, there is no reasonable basis for infringing the associational interests of the female class by preventing them from registering.”
In this class-action lawsuit, the young woman reports that she tried to register for the draft on the Selective Service website, only to be rejected when she checked the “female” option. Under current law, only males are required to register for the draft.
Here’s my favorite line in the lawsuit:
If the two sexes can fight and die together, they can register together; if not, then no one should have to register.
This lawsuit isn’t the first of its kind.
In 1981, the Supreme Court reversed a U.S. District Court’s decision that the Military Selective Service Act’s gender-based discrimination violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment (Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57).
Since that decision the idea to include women in the draft has been discussed several times, but Congress hasn’t amended the Selective Service law to include women.
The reason? Because women weren’t allow to serve in combat they shouldn’t be required to register for the draft.
But that argument has been flipped on its head since former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s announcement that DOD would end the direct ground combat exclusion rule for female service members.
We know that while the United States has the ability to draft for military service, we don’t use the draft unless we have to and future presidents will be very reluctant to initiate a draft with or without women registered in it. We are proud of our all-volunteer force. But in a worst-case scenario shouldn’t we consider having women registered for the draft?
I believe this requirement will be the last step in gender integration for the U.S. military. Once women are required to register with the draft, women will finally be viewed as equals both on and off the battlefield.