Houston-based U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller’s ruling that it is unconstitutional to have a military draft that applies only to men can be seen as trivial or irrelevant, given that the draft ended 46 years ago, and few people, rightly, are clamoring for its return. Relying on volunteers has mostly worked very well for the military.
Nevertheless, Miller’s ruling matters — and is grounded in common sense — because federal law still requires men to register with the Selective Service System when they turn 18. In 1981, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the male-only draft, justices bought the rationale that women were not suited for combat. But in 2013, as Miller noted, the Pentagon dropped its ban on women in combat, saying that women who met gender-neutral physical health standards could serve along with men on the front lines.
Even if the Pentagon hadn’t made that decision, having a draft for only men would still have seemed dubious, given that the great majority of military jobs now require technical or other cognitive skills. As the judge wrote, “In the nearly four decades since (the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a men-only draft), women’s opportunities in the military have expanded dramatically.”
Change was likely coming in any event. The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service — established by Congress in 2017 — was expected to call for ending the male-only draft in a report that’s due next year. So why wait? Since Miller’s ruling isn’t binding on the Pentagon, military leaders and the Trump administration should consider changing the draft immediately.
The male-only rule is an anachronism.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE