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Title IX: Equality Finally Reaches the Military

selective service women register for draft
Photo illustration of woman registering for Selective Service "draft"

Paul Martinez / PHOTOSPORT

Title IX: Equality Finally Reaches the Military

By Paul Martinez

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 3, 2015)  � Title IX, passed back in 1972, reads in part: 

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance

       Passed despite massive opposition, the benefits of Title IX to women in collegiate and high school sports have become indisputable over the years. More women - and men as well - are receiving and enjoying the benefits of organized sports.

       But what does the above passage imply? It might as well read:

It's legal to exclude people from participation in federally funded activities (other than Education), on the basis of sex!

       The  8000-pound elephant in the room for the last 33 years has been women's participation in the military, or lack therof. Nobody wanted to notice it, for it could open a cascade of consequences that could lead to changes - changes that disturb traditional but obsolete beliefs, and could cost some politicians their careers. But eventually it would have to be addressed, for there is this law, that men must sign up for the draft or be denied Federal benefits, student grants and loans, access to jobs, in some states driver licenses, and basic citizenship rights - not to mention facing five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

       On Dec. 3, 2015, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter took unilateral action, opening up all jobs and positions in the military, including ground combat and special forces, to women. It removes the last excuse anyone - even certain women's groups - had to excuse women from potentially dangerous duty - the same duty required for advancement to the highest positions in the military.

       Women have been excused from Selective Service due to a 1980 Supreme Court ruling, that since females were excluded from combat at the time, that there was no point in having them sign up for any future draft. This followed the efforts of President Jimmy Carter (no relation to Ash) to bring full equality to women in all areas, not just education, and despite the fact that women even then served in 90 percent of military positions then available.

       While this was obvious discrimination against women, the primary damage has been against men, who have been denied access to Federal jobs and benefits for failing to fill out a form that their sisters need not even be aware of.

       Despite all the hand wringing and worrying, it boils down to filling out the same simple form men have been doing since 1980. Registration is not the draft. And while some will say women could be drafted for combat in the future and get shot at if some stupid war starts, well maybe we won't be so quick to jump into stupid wars. A politician starting an unjust war where women would be risked unnecessarily is a suicidal one. The arguments on this topic have become self-defeating.

       Women have been enjoying in effect not just a right but a special privilege all these years. This hypocrisy is not right, two wrongs do not make a right, and it weakens the argument for women's rights. It's long past time to get rid of it.

       This is in effect, Title IX for the military. As in the sports realm, once strongly-held, but long obsolete beliefs are let go, everyone benefits, in ways unimaginable. Now can we have a Title IX for everything else?

Further Information:

On December 8, 2015, the Defense Department will make its recommendation on this matter, which will almost certainly be to go forward with female registration. It would then go to Congress, which would have to amend the Selective Service Law and remove the discriminatory language.

       Passage is not so certain, as many politicians in conservative districts would be allergic to the issue. However, using the technique known as a rider, the issue need not be directly voted on in a standalone bill, in fact it is extremely unlikely that what might be regarded as a change to an existing law would get its own bill. Rather, the change to the law would be inserted in a larger package with a high likelihood of passage, such as a budget bill, defense authorization or even a farm bill.

       Once it does so, the law is changed. At that point, all young people, not just men, would be required to register with Selective Service in conformance with the new law. It could start mid-year or perhaps New Year's 2017, by filling out forms at local US Post Offices, and online.

       Who would register would also have to be decided. The law affects persons 18 to 26, and women born in 1990 and later would have to register. Following some sort of initial registration period for those already past 18 but not yet 26, women would register on their 18th birthdays, the same as men.

       Penalties for failure to register are likely to stay the same. It is a criminal act punishable by five years in Federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Aside from a couple of test cases in the 1980s, no one has ever been convicted of breaking this law.

       However, tens of thousands of men have had Federal benefits denied, student grants and loans rejected, and turned down for government jobs, for in many cases inadvertent failure to fill out the form. Every year more and more state governments make registration conditional to jobs and benefits, so it gets worse for these men. Registration cannot be accepted past a person's 26th birthday and the restriction on these men's rights becomes permanent and irrevocable on that day.

       Therefore, women age 25, especially those very close to their 26th birthday, should register at the first opportunity available, to avoid falling into this trap. Access to current and future benefits and job opportunities far outweighs the unlikely threat of being forced to fight in a future war. 

UPDATE May 12, 2016

     The House Armed Services Committee has voted to insert H.R.4478, which revises the Selective Service law to include women, into H.R.4909, the 2017 Defense budget bill. This passed committee 60-2 and will almost certainly be approved next month. By doing this, no congressperson need vote directly on the issue, or other potentially contentious topics in the bill, such as funding the F-35 fighter program overruns, the expansion of the aging A-10 Warthog program, and bizarre purchases such as Russian rocket motors (to put into missiles to point back at the Russians).

     H.R.4478 was a standalone bull introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), entitled the Draft America's Daughters Act. Despite the title, stated by the author to draw attention to the "ridiculousness" of female participation in the military, the bill's language is a perfectly legal, straightforward gender neutralization of the current Selective Service law text. If Hunter's move was intended to stop the inclusion of women in the draft, it seems to have backfired as this very language is almost certainly going to become law. The budget bill also will have to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.

UPDATE June 14, 2016

     The US Senate has approved their version of the spending bill, which has the McCain amendment with essentially the same language as the Hunter. This must now be reconciled with the House version, which dropped the Hunter amendment before passage.
     One key difference: in this version, registration would only affect women born after 1999. That way the bill would be safely passed before anyone affected by it became eligible to vote against its supporters.

UPDATE Oct 19, 2016

Draft Miley Cyrus

     The issue is becoming a political football as seen in this sarcastic anti-Hillary "campaign spot." The spot depicts Miley Cyrus stating she will fight an unjust war for Hillary.

UPDATE Nov 19, 2016

     Unable to compromise on the spending bill, Congress two months ago passed a stopgap funding measure to keep the military funded. With the unexpected change in direction at the Executive level (Trump got elected), and with incoming Houses likely to vote against women's participation in the military, it appears likely that draft registration for women will be removed from the final form of the bill.

     Only if the outgoing Senators and President act in the lame duck session in late 2016 is the measure likely to pass, and indications are from the inbound Administration that gender equity provisions will be rolled back.

UPDATE Dec 9, 2016

     Congress has approved a bill that excludes women. Instead, funding is approved for the issue to be "studied." Assuming the President signs it, Selective Service will remain men-only. President Obama and the Defense Department have recently stated they support the requirement for women to register with Selective Service. He could not alter the bill before signing, but could take unilateral action in the form of Executive Order any time before leaving office. The incoming Trump Administration and staff have not stated a position although they appear to lean against it.

     There are a couple of court cases addressing this Federal-level discrimination. They would have been dismissed as moot had the spending bill been passed as proposed, however they are both back in play. If either case were to win, this issue, this last bastion if discrimination -  would finally be decided in favor of equality.


Female military draft scenarios

      If the budget bill were to take effect in 2016 (unlikely), female draft registration would begin with those born in the years 1991 through 1998. In the unlikely event of the draft starting this year, those born in 1996 would be taken first. For the year 2017, add one year to these years of birth.

     Note that, for reasons covered above, those aged 25 to 27 have the most to worry about. Failure to register will cause a lifetime denial of benefits, permanent loss of eligibility for lucrative government jobs, and now a loss of a myriad of many privileges in most states. Late or retroactive registration is not possible and a slight mistake of even a couple of days would cause a lifetime of problems for those people. For those on the cusp, is recommended to attempt to register even if you do not think you are eligible, by filling out the form at a post office and turning it in. If you are indeed not eligible you will receive a written response that could prove invaluable in the future.

     On May 12 Sen John McCain (R-AZ) introduced into the US Senate version language with specifics. If passed female draft registration would begin in 2018. Women with birth years 1992 to 2000 should keep themselves informed of this legislation which can and will permanently affect their rights and responsibilities. It would be interesting to hear input from high profile people who would be affected. For instance, singer Miley Cyrus (born Nov. 23, 1992) is in the crosshairs of the military draft legislation. However, no one has aired their opinion as of this date.

The role of drafted women in the military

      A country drafts its women in the extremety of need. For instance, Russia would have lost to Germany in World War 2, had it not called everybody, including the women, to fight the invaders. Israel, in 1949 would never had formed without its fighting women. Although the women's draft is brought forth as a statement of social equality, the fact is the US needs millions upon millions of personnel even in peacetime and is having trouble getting them.

      The United States has a worldwide military presence, with actual troops on the ground in 800 bases in 70 different nations, not to mention a Navy that can be found on every ocean and lake of any size in the world. This results in a voracious demand for personnel. Even though involved in a half dozen regional conflicts and wars, this is considered peacetime, with the primary staffing-up occurring at the special forces level.

       In the event of a future war, women can expected to be drawn involuntarily to augment an already strained personnel pipeline. There will be cries to exempt women from combat, to leave them in the safety of their homes. But, the fact of it is, a future war could prove as dangerous to civilians as those in the past. Though the combatants in past wars were almost all male, the casualties of war in all countries but the US were about 50/50. Consider the women in the two cities the US dropped atomic bombs on - had they drafted women they would have been safely in the field and not dead in the blast at home.

       If it comes down to a war - and unfortunately, the odds are it will, sooner or later - wouldn't it be better for women to be in a position to fight and defend themselves, instead of becoming helpless victims as usual?

 Photo Gallery

draft registration for women

Photo Illustration of possible future female draft registration

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