By Erin Smith
Women may soon have to register for the Selective Service following a federal judge’s ruling in Friday. Senior United States District Judge Gray Miller ruled in the Southern District of Texas court on Friday that requiring only males to register for the Selective Service is a violation of the 5th amendment due process clause in the United States Constitution.
The lawsuit was brought against the Military Selective Service by the National Coalition for Men. In his ruling, Judge Miller refers to a 1981 Supreme Court ruling that allowed for the exclusion of women from the draft because at the time, women were not allowed to hold combat roles in the military. In 2015, the Pentagon abolished all rules that denied women from holding a combat role and instead allowed women to hold any military role for which they can “qualify.”
In his ruling, Judge Miller wrote, “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.”
The Military Selective Service, or “the draft” as it is commonly referred to, was originally created in 1948 and was amended in 1971 to make registration mandatory for all men between the ages of 18 and 25. Men are also required to notify the Selective Service of changes to their address within ten days or they face a fine if they do not. Under the current structure, men cannot declare a conscientious objector status when filling out his registration for the Selective Service, but rather he can make such a notification when he is drafted into military service, according to the Selective Service Act. For men who fail to register for the Military Selective Service can result in a fine of up to $50,000 and other penalties.
The Pentagon has not issued a statement on the ruling.
Judge Miller’s ruling does not specify any actions to be taken by the US Congress or the Pentagon.
A Congressional panel, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, was formed in January 2018 and has been studying the Military Selective Service process. The Commission is tasked by the US Congress with determining whether to abolish the draft all together, whether to require women to register or other changes that may be needed. The Commission issued an interim report in January 2019, laying out its initial findings and the Commission is continuing to move forward with its work.
The Interim report of the Commission notes that discussions centered around women in the military and requirements for Selective Service registration are still a matter being debated. The report reads, “We also heard from many Americans who are surprised that women are currently neither required nor permitted to register for selective service and question the rationale for excluding women from the obligation to defend the nation. Because women can volunteer to serve as fighter pilots, as submariners, and in the infantry, many Americans have questioned why qualified women would not be subject to a draft like qualified men. We have heard from others, however, who believe that physical differences between men and women would make it impractical or even dangerous to conscript women to serve in combat roles.”
You can also offer your own comments regarding Selective Service and women in the military to the Commission via their website at www.inspire2serve.gov.Share: