What happened to ‘women’s rights’? Supreme Court won’t hear lawsuit challenging male-only military draft

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UNITED STATES– On Monday, June 7th, the Supreme Court declined to consider the constitutionality of a federal law requiring men, but not women, to register for the military draft when they turn 18 years old.

The court did not say why it would not take the case, which is customary practice.

However, three justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh, said the court’s longstanding deference to Congress on military issues cautions against taking the case while lawmakers are considering whether to change the law, NBC News reported.

federal judge in Texas said the law violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. But a federal appeals court overturned the ruling, concluding that it was bound by a 1981 Supreme Court decision upholding the men-only requirement.

While the draft has not been activated since the United States switched to an all-volunteer force in 1973, it still remains an option on the books should it be needed during wartime. 

The Selective Service Act, which was passed six weeks after the United States formally entered World War I, requires all men to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Failure to do so can result in prosecution and denial of federal student loans.

NBC News reported that the National Coalition for Men and two young men who registered said the military has changed so much since 1981 that the justices should reconsider their earlier ruling. Forty years ago, women were banned from serving in combat roles. But in 2015, the Defense Department opened all military roles, units, and schools to women.

In 2017, a national commission appointed to study the issue concluded that excluding women from registering for the draft sent a message that they “are not vital to the defense of the country.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the plaintiffs, told the Supreme Court that the decision by Congress to exclude women from the draft was rooted in archaic stereotypes about women’s roles outside the home.

According to reports, in a friend of court brief, a group of retired senior military officers, including former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, said women now constitute 17 percent of the armed forces, roughly the same percentage of women in the New York Police Department.

Their brief said:

“Women graduate from the nation’s top service academies, complete the most challenging combat training programs, deploy overseas, serve alongside men, and integrate into basic combat teams, including in the infantry,” 

Due to the fact that Congress may be changing the law, the Biden administration reportedly urged the court not to take up the issue for the time being. 

The acting solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, said:

“Any reconsideration of the constitutionality of the male only registration requirement would be premature at this time,” 

She continued:

“Congress is actively considering the scope of the registration requirement.”

Prelogar wrote in the government’s legal brief that previous Supreme Court rulings have said that:

“the court should defer to Congress where possible in this sensitive military context,” she wrote in the government’s legal brief

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Despite Biden’s promise, Pentagon maintains ban on Pride flags on military bases: ‘There won’t be an exception’

June 8, 2021

In July of 2020, former Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, established a policy forbidding U.S. military’s installations from flying the Pride flags, including during Pride month. According to the Pentagon, they will continue to uphold the ban at this current time. 

On Friday, June 4th, Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby gave a news briefing where he said the Defense Department:

“will maintain the existing policy from July 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,”

He went on to say:

“there won’t be an exception this month for the Pride flag.”

However, Kirby noted that the choice:

“in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people of the LGBTQ+ community, personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department.” 

Kirby added:

“We’re proud of them,” 

Kirby explained that the decision was made to avoid challenges that could arise from making an exception to the policy, NBC reported.

Kirby noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will participate in Pride Month festivities at the Pentagon this week. 

Kirby also said in a statement:

“[Austin] encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation,” 

The flag policy was put in place under the Trump administration to limit what flags were able to be flown at military installations, buildings and vehicles. This effectively bans the use of Confederate flags, without mentioning the controversial symbol specifically. 

Esper, a Trump appointee, confirmed the modification in a July 17, 2020, memo that contains guidance on what flags are allowed to be flown. Permitted flags included U.S. state and territory flags, military service flags, the prisoners of war and missing in action flag, and several others, NBC news reported

On Friday, the Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQ service members and veterans, tweeted that they called on the Pentagon to “reconsider its misguided policy and authorize the use of Pride flags on military installations,”

In the tweet, the group also pointed out that that President Joe Biden had promised to do so on the campaign trail last year.

The promise that the group is referring to, Biden stated in a tweet last July.

In the tweet, then-candidate Biden said:

“Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue. Banning the LGBTQ Pride flag — the very symbol of diversity and inclusion — is undeniably wrong. The Pentagon should ensure it is authorized, or as President, I will.”

At this point, the White House has not commented on the Pentagon’s decision. 

NBC reported that last week, Biden released A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, 2021, in which he honored the “remarkable progress” the LGBTQ community has made since the June 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising, which ignited the modern LGBTQ movement for equality. The president also noted that close to 14 percent of his administration’s 1,500 agency appointees identify as LGBTQ.


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