WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — A federal judge in Texas has ruled the male-only requirement for draft registration unconstitutional now that women are allowed to have combat roles.
Judge Gray Miller of the Southern District of Texas made the landmark decision on Feb. 22, ruling in favor of the the National Coalition of Men, Anthony Davis and James Lesmeister, the plaintiffs who brought the case to the court in 2017. Miller's decision hinged on the Department of Defense's policy change allowing women in combat roles in 2015.
"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,'" wrote Miller, citing Rostker v. Goldberg, a 1981 Supreme Court case that upheld the male-only draft.
Current law requires all men ages 18 to 25 to register with the Selective Service System, which documents the records of those who would be eligible for a potential draft. The system has been in place since 1917, when it was created by Congress in response to the U.S. entering World War I. Generations of young men have been required to register in one way or another ever since, though there has not been an actual draft since the Vietnam War era. Women are not required to register, nor are they allowed to volunteer to do so.
The Department of Defense changed the longstanding rules restricting women from combat positions in an effort to pull from "the broadest possible pool of talent," according to then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. President Barack Obama hailed it as "another historic step forward" at the time.
Because of that change in policy, Miller ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. He even went a step further in a footnote, writing "[t]he 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," according to Lawfare.
Despite the decision, the draft process is likely to remain unchanged for now. Miller's decision provided a legal conclusion, but did not include a legal injunction, meaning the government will not be forced to make any changes soon.
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