In response to a lawsuit by the men’s rights group National Coalition for Men, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled the male-only draft violated the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. He said the rationale for difference along gender lines from a previous Supreme Court ruling, that women were ineligible to serve in combat, no longer applies. Women, who make up 16% of the U.S. military enlisted and 18% of officers as of 2016, according to nonprofit CNA, have been serving official combat roles since 2015.
“While historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination,” reads Judge Miller’s statement, “men and women are now ‘similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.’ […] If there ever was a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed.”
By law, all male permanent residents of the United States over the age of 18 must register for the Selective Service System. This both renders them eligible for certain public services and identifies them for the draft, or military conscription, were a draft to be imposed.
Part of the judge’s statement reads “the average woman could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today’s combat positions than the average man, depending on which skills the position required. Combat roles no longer uniformly require sheer size or muscle.” He went on to cite the Supreme Court ruling permitting same-sex marriage.
The ruling was a declaration, placing no injunction on the government to immediately change the Selective Service System.
There is currently a commission engaged to study the role of the draft, and the government asked Judge Miller to delay his ruling until after they made their recommendations, but he declined. USA Today noted the commission’s scope allows it to advise including women in the draft or eliminating the draft entirely.
The last draft in the United States took place in 1973 during the Vietnam War.
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