Registering Women for the Draft Wouldn’t be a Big Departure from the PastRoundup
tags: military history, womens history, Equal Rights Amendment, Selective Service, Military Draft, Women in Military
Kara Dixon Vuic is the LCpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt professor of war, conflict and society in 20th-century America at Texas Christian University. She is the author of "The Girls Next Door," and "Officer, Nurse, Woman," and is writing a new book called "Drafting Women."
U.S. law upholds one last legal distinction between the obligations of citizenship for women and men: the requirement that men, but not women, register for Selective Service.
In a nation that has not drafted military personnel in almost 50 years, Selective Service registration poses little risk and exacts few burdens. However, failure to comply can carry very serious consequences.
Still, if women and men do not bear equal obligations as citizens, they are not equal.
That distinction could soon end. In January 2021, strange bedfellows — the National Coalition for Men and the American Civil Liberties Union — petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn its 1981 Rostker v. Goldberg decision. The case upheld the exclusion of women from Selective Service because the military prohibited them from combat positions. Because the military opened all combat positions to women in 2015, the plaintiffs argue, there is no longer a legal justification for excluding women from registration. Doing so amounts to unconstitutional sexual discrimination. The court has asked the Biden administration to weigh in by April 14.
It is hard to predict what the administration or the court will do. And regardless of what it does, Congress has the ultimate power to rework, dismantle or reimagine the Selective Service System.
Yet the national mood appears to be coalescing in favor of women’s registration. In March 2020, the congressionally created National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service advised that “the time is right” to include women in Selective Service registration. In an amicus curiae brief, several prominent generals and admirals insisted that “the categorical exclusion of women from the selective service is inimical to the Nation’s security interests.”
And including women would not be a massive departure from the past. In fact, registering women for potential military service — even drafting them if necessary — has long had widespread support from across the political spectrum, both in times of war and peace.
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