Men's rights group successfully sues to force US military draft to include women

Federal judge says women 'could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today’s combat positions than the average man'

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 25 February 2019 18:26
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US Military cadets run in full combat gear as they start competing in the 50th annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition
US Military cadets run in full combat gear as they start competing in the 50th annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition

The US military must include women in any future drafts, a federal judge has ruled, after a prominent men’s rights group successfully sued the Selective Service System (SSS).

The decision follows the Pentagon’s policy reversal in 2015 to begin allowing women to serve in combat military roles. Women were previously barred from combat, which caused the US Supreme Court to rule in 1981 that their exclusion in draft registrations was constitutional.

“If there was ever a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed,” Judge Gray Miller wrote in his ruling.

The Texas judge noted in his decision that, “while historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, men and women are now ‘similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.’”

Harry Crouch, president of the National Coalition for Men, celebrated the ruling for his group's lawsuit in an interview with The Independent, describing a four-year court process ending with a “major” decision “that should cause the conversation to accelerate towards a resolution”.

However, when asked whether future drafts should apply to all women — including transgender Americans — Mr Crouch replied, “We don’t get into gender politics.”

He then clarified, “There’s some things we don’t delve into. There’s a lot of issues we don’t get involved in … but you can plug in anybody you want.”

“This is all about equitable treatment,” he added.

In his ruling, Judge Gray wrote that women “could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today’s combat positions than the average man” and that “combat roles no longer uniformly require sheer size or muscle.”

Mr Crouch said he agreed with that statement, saying, “I think there are situations in all forms of employment where some people do better than others, and some of that is based on gender.”

The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is slated to provide Congress and the White House with recommendations surrounding the military draft — including the possibility of abolishing it altogether — by 2020.

Mr Crouch said NCFM does not take a stance on whether or not the US should abandon military draft registrations, but that the ruling in the group’s lawsuit should provide “support” for the committee’s findings.

“We have a ruling that says the way things are situated is unconstitutional, which is huge,” he said. “So that should cause the conversation to accelerate towards a resolution.”

The decision could pave the way for women to begin following the same Selective Service guidelines men must follow in the US, including registering with the federal agency within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The federal judge declined to provide injunctive relief in the suit, however, meaning there are no immediate changes to the current SSS policies.

A draft allows the US government to rapidly increase the size of its military forces if it were ever forced to reinstate conscription.

“If we have draft registration, both sexes should have to register,” Marc E Angelucci, an attorney for NCFM, told the New York Times. “There’s really no more excuse to require only men to register.”

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While Mr Crouch called out Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other feminist military advocates in Congress who have remained silent on the ruling, many civil rights activists celebrated the decision as a win against discrimination.

Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Centre for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) — a group that has sued the government over Donald Trump’s transgender military ban — said in a statement to The Independent “the ruling affirms that military policies that discriminate on sex — like the transgender military ban — are subject to meaningful judicial review and will be struck down when they rest on stereotypes and over broad generalizations about women and men.”

“This will be an important precedent for courts ruling on Trump's attempt to ban transgender service members,” they added. “It is also important in its own right, as a step toward greater gender equality in our nation's armed forces.”

The last military draft was over 45 years ago and ended 27 January, 1973, when the Selective Service said no more draft calls would be made for the waning Vietnam War.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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