Federal law in the United States deems that all males between the ages of 18 and 25 must register Selective Service or “the draft”, but the “men only” policy could eventually come to an end.
On Feb. 22, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the all-male policy regarding Selective Service is unconstitutional. The ruling was issued in regard to a lawsuit filed by the National Coalition for Men, an advocacy group for “men’s rights.” The organization filed the lawsuit seeking an injunction that would require women to register with the Selective Service System.
The draft ended in 1973, but men between the ages of 18 and 26 are still required to register for it. In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the notion that women be excluded from having to register since women were not allowed to serve in combat at the time (Rostker v. Goldberg). The Department of Defense lifted that ban in 2013. Miller observed in his ruling that women’s opportunities in the military have expanded since the time of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1981 decision.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller noted both of these events in his ruling. He also denied the government’s motion to stay the lawsuit. The government is currently waiting for a report from the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which is reviewing whether women should be required to register for the draft.
“If there ever was a time to discuss the place of women in the Armed Services, that time has passed,” Miller wrote in his decision. Miller also wrote that the Selective Service had not shown that the male-only registration requirement was “substantially related to Congress’s objective of raising and supporting armies.”
Miller cited majority opinions from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in his decision, particularly, U.S. v. Virginia and Sessions v. Morales-Santana.
“Typically, the defender of legislation that differentiates on the basis of gender must show ‘at least that the challenged classification serves important governmental objectives and that the discriminatory means employed are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives,'” Miller wrote.
Miller’s decision has no immediate effect, and the government’s policy won’t change with the ruling. If the National Coalition for Men chooses to appeal, the next place the case will go is the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
It is not known if National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but if it does the draft could very well see expansion.