Women should be included in the US military draft, a federal judge in Texas has ruled, in a case brought by a men’s rights group.
Judge Gray Miller in the southern district of Texas said it was unconstitutional to only apply the draft to men, because women can now serve in combat roles too.
The US military has not enforced conscription in more than 40 years, but all American male teenagers are still required to register when they turn 18 in case a draft is reinstated. They remain eligible until they are 25 years old.
Those who fails to register can face penalties which range in severity from fines, imprisonment or being denied services like federal student loans.
Judge Miller said the Supreme Court’s 1981 ruling excluding women from the draft was "justified" because women were not allowed to serve in combat roles at the time.
The Pentagon abolished those restrictions in 2015, meaning women can now serve in any military role.
“While historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, men and women are now ‘similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft,’” the judge wrote in his ruling. “If there ever was a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed.”
The case was brought by the National Coalition for Men, a men’s rights group, which argued only requiring men to register violated the US Constitution’s equal-protection clause.
"Forcing only males to register is an aspect of socially institutionalised male disposability and helps reinforce the stereotypes that support discrimination against men in other areas such as child custody, divorce, criminal sentencing, paternity fraud, education, public benefits, domestic violence services, due process rights, genital autonomy, and more," the group said in a statement after the ruling.
Marc Angelucci, a lawyer for the National Coalition for Men, added: "Even without a draft, men still face prison, fines, and denial of federal loans for not registering or for not updating the government of their whereabouts. Since women will be required to register with the Selective Service, they should face the same repercussions as men for any noncompliance.”
The court’s judgement was a declaratory ruling, so does not require any action to be taken, but the administration has been conducting its own review of the draft system for some time.
The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, has been considering whether the draft system should continue – and if so, whether women should be included.