A federal appeals court on Thursday declared the male-only draft constitutional, overturning a lower court ruling from 2019 that had sparked an outcry from social conservatives and Christian leaders.
At issue is the requirement by the Selective Service System that men, upon reaching age 18, register with the agency within 30 days. Selective Service keeps a list of all men ages 18-25 eligible for the draft.
The lawsuit was brought by the National Coalition For Men, which argued that permitting women to avoid Selective Service violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Last year, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller sided with the organization, but on Thursday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Miller and said they were bound by Supreme Court precedent. The high court upheld a male-only draft as constitutional in a 1981 case, Rostker v. Goldberg.
“Only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent,” the Fifth Circuit ruled.
The 3-0 unanimous decision was issued by Judges Jacques Loeb Wiener Jr. (nominated by George W. Bush), Carl E. Stewart (President Clinton) and Don Willett (President Trump). Miller, who was nominated by George W. Bush, argued that since “women are now eligible for and have been integrated into combat units,” they also can be drafted. When the Supreme Court ruled in 1981, women were not eligible for combat.
In 2016, when the issue was also being discussed, Concerned Women for America issued a statement supporting a male-only draft.
“We firmly believe in the equality of men and women, but that does not require us to ignore the physical differences and unique risks to women in combat particularly in the case of capture,” the statement said. “The female draft discussion should revolve around combat readiness, efficiency, and national security, and weeding through applicants that are overwhelmingly biologically unable to meet combat standards would be a logistical nightmare and would force the lowering of combat standards.
“We strongly support the heroic, capable, and honorable women who chose and will choose to serve our country in the military,” Concerned Women for America added. “However, this issue centers around whether or not women are to be forced to register to serve in tip-of-spear combat roles should our nation reinstate the draft. Forcing women to serve in combat against their will is a deep departure in U.S. policy. Uncle Sam needs to keep his hands off of our daughters.”
The decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Im Yeongsik
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.