Tuesday, March 8, 2011
As the centenary of international women's day, March 8, arrives, the end of combat restrictions on women in the United States military also seems to be ending.
In Rostker v. Goldberg, 1981, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Congressional decision to exempt women from registration for the military. The challengers argued that the gender classification of the Congressional statute violated equal protection as embodied in the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The Court opined that the Congressional exempt was not an "accidental by-product of traditional ways of thinking" about women, but instead was permissible because men and women were not similarly situated given the combat restrictions on women. That these combat restrictions were legal (rather than natural) did not seem important to the six Justices in the majority.
Today, according to the United States Department of Defense, a
commission established to study diversity among military leaders is recommending that the Defense Department rescind its policy that prevents women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level.
In a report issued today, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission recommends that the department and the services eliminate combat exclusion policies for women, as well as other “barriers and inconsistencies, to create a level playing field for all qualified service members.”
The Military Leadership Diversity Final Report, From Representation to Inclusion: Diversity Leadership for the 21st-Century Military, considers a range of diversity, including racial and ethnic diversity. The final report, at 162 pages, contains 20 broad recommendations, discussed in the shorter Executive Summary. The exclusion of women from combat is specifically linked to career advancement. The Press Release, dated March 8, provides an interesting connection to International Women's Day.