A federal judge ruled Friday that a male-only draft violates the U.S. Constitution in a decision that could lead to women being drafted for a future war.
The case involves the requirement that men, upon reaching age 18, register with Selective Service, which is a list of U.S. citizens eligible for the draft.
The National Coalition For Men had filed suit against the government, arguing that permitting women to avoid Selective Service violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge Gray Miller agreed, and ruled that if women are allowed in combat roles – the Obama administration lifted that restriction – then they also should be required to sign up for Selective Service.
“Women are now eligible for and have been integrated into combat units,” Miller wrote. “Thus, although Congress was previously concerned about drafting large numbers of people who were categorically ineligible for combat, this concern factually no longer justifies the [Selective Service].”
Miller, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, said Congress could have compared the average physical ability of men and women and “concluded that it was not administratively wise to draft women.” But Congress did not make such a case, he said.
“Instead, at most, it appears that Congress obliquely relied on assumptions and overly broad stereotypes about women and their ability to fulfill combat roles,” he wrote.
Further, Miller ruled, the government appears “to be arguing that requiring women to register for the draft would affect female enlistment by increasing the perception that women will be forced to serve in combat roles.”
“However, this argument smacks of archaic and overbroad generalizations about women’s preferences,” he wrote.
“The relevant question is not what proportion of women are physically eligible for combat,” Miller wrote. “It may well be that only a small percentage of women meets the physical standards for combat positions. However, if a similarly small percentage of men is combat-eligible, then men and women are similarly situated for the purposes of the draft and the discrimination is unjustified.”
The National Coalition for Men argued that men “still face prison, fines, and denial of federal loans for not registering or for not updating the government of their whereabouts.” Women, the coalition said, “should face the same repercussions as men for any noncompliance."
Christian leaders have long urged the military to leave combat roles to men.
Glenn T. Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said that a “virtuous nation and good soldiers protect women and children."
“They don't send their women off to battle," Stanton said. “The real issue here is the draft. There are highly skilled women serving in the military at very high levels and doing very important and dangerous tasks. A mother here at Focus has a daughter who is one of the Air Force's leading pilots of their biggest cargo planes. She rocks! But she chose to serve her country this way and she is making incredible contributions.
“Requiring women to register to defend their country is not virtuous,” Stanton said. “Rosie the Riveter served her country heroically, but she didn't need to be drafted into the military to do it.”
Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., told the Christian Examiner that drafting women presents multiple problems. Strachan also is senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.
“Men are best able, on average, to bear the brutal responsibilities and duties of warfare,” he said. “Women, by contrast, have struggled in limited samples to perform the minimal physical tasks necessary to battlefield survival. We know why: God made men differently than He made women – ‘male and female He created them’ (Genesis 1:27). Men are made to use their greater strength to risk their lives for women and children. This is clear in the example of the great Davidic warriors, the 'mighty men' of Israel (see 2 Samuel 23). These men put their lives on the line for those God called them to protect, provide for, and lead.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, previously asked: “What kind of nation forces its sisters, daughters, and granddaughters onto a battlefield against their will? That's not progress. It's the worst kind of cowardice. And what good is "equality" if it's only setting women up for disaster and failure?”
The Center for Military Readiness argues there are practical reasons Selective Service should be limited to men.
“It is true that some women can meet minimal standards, but this is not a sufficient reason for deciding that all civilian women should be ordered to register for possible induction,” the organization says. “Women are free to volunteer for combat positions, but the physiological reality is that most women cannot meet those standards while most men can.
“In view of these realities, Congress could reasonably, rationally, and appropriately determine that it would not make sense for Selective Service to cull thousands of female draftees just to find the few who might meet ground combat arms standards. Such a policy, in a time of political crisis, would be an administrative nightmare that would weaken America’s defenses at the worst possible time.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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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.