In 1981, the outcome of Rostker v. Goldberg upheld that a male-only draft was “fully justified,” deeming women ineligible for combat roles.
In 2019, a federal judge in Texas overturned that decision, declaring that an all-male military draft is unconstitutional.
“The time has passed,” for deciding whether women belong in the military, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled late Friday. Women belong, and women have filled every role of military service since the Pentagon lifted any restrictions based on sex in 2015.
“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,” reads Miller’s judgment.
“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.” Miller elaborated.
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If a male U.S. citizen does not register for the draft with the Selective Service System when they turn 18 years old, they may miss out on certain public benefits. They can be excluded from federal employment, or denied student loans. Women have previously not faced this consequence.
That’s the argument that prompted the San Diego-based National Coalition for Men to bring their case against an all-male draft forward.
“Women are now allowed in combat, so this decision is long overdue,” Marc Angelucci, attorney for NCFM, told the Times of San Diego. “After decades of sex discrimination against men in the Selective Service, the courts have finally found it unconstitutional to force only men to register.”
It’s important to note that Miller’s ruling is a declaratory judgment and not an injunction.
“To some extent this is symbolic, but it does have some real-world impact,” Angelucci told USA Today. “Either they need to get rid of the draft registration, or they need to require women to do the same thing that men do.”
If the court’s decision is upheld, women would be required to register for the draft upon turning 18 years old. Short of that requirement, either the draft, or the penalties for declining to register for it, would be eliminated entirely.
“The court ruling itself changes nothing as far as the commission is concerned,” Joe Heck, the Army general and former congressman who chairs the National Commission for Military, National and Public Service, told USA Today. “There are several different potential outcomes that the commission is considering. That’s why it’s so important that we talk not just to policy experts but the American public.”
Learn more in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.