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Status of women in the U.S.:

2019-FEB: Federal District
court issues
ruling against the
current all-male military draft
.

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2019-FEB: Current status of the U.S. military draft:

In the U.S., all male citizens and male immigrant non-citizens are required to register with Selective Service for possible military conscription (a.k.a. the draft) within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In the event of a military crisis, the government could require men between the ages of 19 and 26 to enter the military for 21 months. This has not happened at any time in the past 40 years because a sufficient number of young adults -- both male and female -- have volunteered to join the military. This has met staffing requirements. 1

Failure to register or failure to update their registration when they change their address, etc. can be penalized with a fine or even a prison sentence.

Transgender individuals who were identified as male at birth and currently identify themselves as female are required to register, even if they have had male to female sex confirmation surgery.

The Selective Service also has a system in place that could be activated in an emergency situation to draft men and women who are "... qualified for practice or employment in a health care occupation." This includes physicians, nurses, etc. 1

During 1981, the Military Selective Service Act was challenged in court on the basis that it discriminated against men. The case was called Rostker v. Goldberg. It was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6 to 3 ruling, the High Court ruled that the discrimination was constitutional, because women were restricted from serving in combat roles at that time.

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2013 until now: The draft's discrimination in favor of women is revisited in the courts:

During 2013, the Pentagon started to lift restrictions against women in combat. This process was completed in 2015.

Also during 2013, two male adults and the National Coalition for Men jointly filed a lawsuit against the Selective Service System in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The case is called: "National Coalition for Men, et al. v. Selective Service System, et al." 2 Lawyers for he plaintiffs argued that since women were now allowed to serve in many more military roles, that the justification for the Supreme Court's ruling in Rostker v. Goldberg no longer existed. Thus, they felt that restriction on registraton for the draft to biological males was discriminatory and should either be abandoned or changed to require both men and women -- both cisgender and transgender -- to register.

The District Court ruled against the plaintiffs. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which has a historical reputation of issuing many anti-discrimination/pro-equality rulings, During 2016, the Ninth Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's ruling and remanded the case over to the district United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas to be reconsidered. This court is within in the adjacent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. 3

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2016: Congress studies whether women should be required to register for the draft:

Congress created an eleven member National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to study the existing draft system and to recommend whether it should be expanded to include women or perhaps even eliminated entirely. During 2019-JAN, the Commission issued an interim report which listed possible changes to the draft. The options include to:

  • Eliminate the draft entirely;

  • Replace the draft with a requirement that all able men and women engage in some form of either military or public service; or

  • Increase efforts to create an all-volunteer military.

The Commission is expected to issue their final report by 2020-MAR.

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2019-FEB-22: Texas District Court issues its ruling:

Judge Gray H. Miller was appointed by former President George W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

During the hearing, the government asked the judge to delay his ruling until the Congress' National Commission had issued its final report. Judge Miller refused because:

  • Congress has been debating the issue since 1980 without resolving it;

  • The Commission's report is not expected until 2020, and

  • Since the Commission mandate is only advisory, there is no guarantee that Congress would act on their recommentations. 4

In his ruling, Judge Miller agreed with the plaintiffs that the Selective Service draft is discriminatory against men and is thus unconstitutional in its present form. Citing the High Court's ruling during mid-2015 that legalized same-sex marriages, he said that government restrictions based on gender "... must substantially serve an important governmental interest today." 4

Judge Miller's ruling was "a declaratory judgment and not an injunction." 4 That is, the Court did not order Congress to change the system.

Marc Angelucci, attorney for the two male plaintiffs, said:

"Forcing only males to register is an aspect of socially institutionalized male disposability and helps reinforce the stereotypes that support discrimination against men in other areas." 5

Such areas include divorce, child custody, and domestic violence services,

Angelucci continued:

"... to some extent this [ruling] is symbolic, but it does have some real-world impact. Either they need to get rid of the draft registration, or they need to require women to do the same thing that men do." 4

He also said:

"Women are now allowed in combat, so this decision is long overdue. ... After decades of sex discrimination against men in the Selective Service, the courts have finally found it unconstitutional to force only men to register."

Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich, an opinion contributor at The Hill website, speculated about reactions by Americans to this ruling. He wrote:

"... the more 'traditional role' of women in our society also will enter the dialogue. It is likely that a clear recommendation by the commission to include women in the Selective Service System would be strenuously objected to, and perhaps even involve court action. A recommendation not to require the registration of women, but to continue the registration of men [only], likely would be similarly contentious. ..."

"Abandoning the Selective Service System would take us one step further away from a timely response to a major threat and might embolden a potential adversary." 6

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2019-FEB-27: An evangelical Christian reaction to the Texas District Court ruling:

Grace Thornton, writing for Baptist Press, posted an article titled: "Military draft ruling a 'blow' to gender equality." She quoted Mike Whitehead, who was once a captain of the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps and who now serves as general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention. He said that Congress still has time to address the issue. He expects that the Supreme Court may have eventually rule on the matter. He said that the U.S. has traditionally:

"... valued women for their special roles in society but has not historically compelled them to fight our wars,. Treating women differently in ways they are different is not invidious discrimination. Myopic views of sexual equality above all else lose sight of other cultural values we should fight to preserve."

Thornton quoted R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who said that men and women are both made in the image of God.

Mohler's statement is probably based on a Biblical passage at Genesis 1:27:

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Mohler has said:

"But equal does not mean same, and when it comes to male and female, it also means different. That is why a biblical understanding of the relationship between men and women and the proper roles of men and women is described as complementarianism -- complementary roles when you look at men and at women, not sameness."

He viewed the decision in 2015 to allow female soldiers to engage in combat roles was:

"... a great blow to human dignity in seeking to erase any distinction between men and women. If equality means sameness, then we will have the absolute meltdown of all moral meaning."

He concluded:

"... "we are about to determine whether the American people are ready, not only for their sons to be registered for the draft, but for their daughters to be equally registered, and if equally registered, then equally ready to be called up for involuntary combat duty." 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Selective Service System," Wikipedia, as on 2019-FEB-28, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System," Wikipedia, as on 2019-FEB-27, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. "NATIONAL COALITION FOR MEN and JAMES LESMEISTER, Individually and on behalf of others ..." U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2016-FEB-19, at: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/
  4. Gregory Korta, "With women in combat roles, a federal court rules male-only draft unconstitutional," USA Today, 2019-FEB-24, at: https://www.usatoday.com/
  5. "Judge Gray Miller: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know," Heavy, 2019-FEB-24, at: https://heavy.com
  6. Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich, "Women should register with Selective Service, for equality and national security," The Hill, 2019-FEB-04, at: https://thehill.com/
  7. Grace Thornton, "Military draft ruling a 'blow' to gender equality," Baptist Press, 2019-FEB-27, at: http://www.bpnews.net/

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2019-MAR-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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