U.S. Military Academy (USMA) cadets wear protective face masks as they gather their gear after training on the water confidence course during tactical and physical training activities as part of Cadet Summer Training at West Point, New York, U.S., August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar


The all-male military draft was ruled constitutional by a federal appeals court on Thursday, overturning a previous ruling asserting that male-only drafts stem from a time when women were prohibited from engaging in combat. 

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously ruled that only the Supreme Court has the license to reverse the precedent it set with a case in 1981. The National Coalition for Men, a men’s’ rights group, brought the lawsuit against the Selective Service System in 2019 with the argument that the male-only draft is discriminatory. They argued that the Supreme Court ruling had been based on the fact that women at that time were not allowed to serve in the military, and won their case in district court. While the appeals court acknowledged that women have now been integrated into the military, the panel said that the precedence set in 1981 must be reversed by the high court.

Currently, all men ages 18-26 must register with the Selective Service System or risk losing federal benefits, fines, or even prison for failing to do so. In March, a U.S. military commission released a new report recommending that women be included in a national draft. The report argued that drafting both sexes would improve the military’s talent pool to better serve national security interests. When U.S. senators in 2016 sought to include women in the national draft, those efforts were met with opposition from groups including Concerned Women for America, who argued that physical differences and women’s unique risks in the instance of capture should preclude them from a mandatory draft.


‘Hands Off of Our Daughters’: Appeals Court Upholds Male-Only Draft – Christian Headlines – 8/14/2020
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.

Fifth Circuit Upholds Constitutionality of Male-Only Draft Registration—But only Based on Precedent – Reason – 8/14/2020
Regardless, it is notable that the Fifth Circuit concluded that Rostker still protects male-only draft registration, but also notable that the judges (both liberal and conservative) recognized that the factual basis for that decision has evaporated. There are several other cases challenging male-only draft registration working their way through the system. It is possible that another appellate court will rule that Rostker no longer shields the male-only draft from constitutional challenge.

Should women also be required to register with selective service? – ABC27 – 8/13/2020
“For us this is not an issue of equality. This is an issue of complicity in militarism,” said Maria Santelli. Santelli is the Executive Director of the Center on Conscience and War. The group opposes the idea of a draft. “We believe the pathway to equality is to abolish the draft once and for all,” said Santelli. The courts have ruled that a draft is constitutional. What is still in question is who will have to register with selective service in the future.

Federal appeals court: Male-only draft is constitutional – Associated Press – 8/13/2020
Plaintiffs in the case could seek a rehearing before the full 17-judge appeals court or go to the Supreme Court. Harry Crouch, president of the National Coalition for Men, said organization leaders will discuss their next move with attorneys. “All I can tell you is we will be moving the case forward,” he said.


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