A Judge Ruled the Selective Service May Not Exclude Women; Let That Be the End of This Debate

A U.S. District Judge in Houston earlier this month ruled the exclusion of women from the Selective Service System to be unconstitutional sex discrimination. So begins another discussion in this country of whether women owe military service to the nation. It will not be our first debate, but it should be our last.Modern-day legal justifications for excluding women from Selective Service registration stem from the 1981 Supreme Court ruling in Rostker v. Goldberg, which permitted the exclusion of women on the grounds that a draft's primary purpose was to mobilize personnel for combat positions. Since women were then excluded from serving in combat, the court ruled, they incurred no obligation to register. However, with the removal of combat restrictions on women in 2015, there remains no legal precedent for their exclusion. Even the commandant of the Marine Corps and the chief of staff of the Army have both stated they believe women should register.If the government wants to exclude women from registration, it will have to come up with a very good reason to do so, and it will have to be a better reason than the ones offered in the past.Throughout much of American history, women have been excluded from military conscription, and often from military service at all, because of assumptions about what women are supposed to be. Members of Congress, top military brass and the American public have, at various times, suggested that women simply could not do the job, that they would damage unit cohesion, that they are a risk to readiness because they can get pregnant, and that the public would never accept their deaths.I suspect that opponents of women's registration for Selective Service will resurrect many of these reasons, but they are as invalid today as they were in the past.  Continue reading...

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