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The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday against a lower court judge’s decision declaring the male-only military draft system unconstitutional.
In a decision reported by the Associated Press, the three-judge appeals court panel unanimously ruled “only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent” with regard to the constitutionality of a male-only draft. The decision, in effect, overrules a lower court judge’s determination that the male-only draft system is unconstitutional.
The appeals court decision comes after it announced in March that it would consider a case in which a federal judge in Texas already ruled in 2019 in favor of the National Coalition for Men and determined that the male-only draft is unconstitutional.
The panel, which included judges Carl Stewart, Don Willett and Jacques Weiner, acknowledged in their decision that the Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of the male-only draft in 1981 when women were largely absent from combat roles, setting the precedent for the male-only draft. In their decision, the judges said, “the factual underpinning of the controlling Supreme Court decision has changed” but “that does not grant a court of appeals license to disregard or overrule that precedent.”
Currently, men between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register with the Selective Service System. The mandate was put in place by former President Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Proclamation 4771 on July 2, 1980.
In March, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has recently issued a Congressional report in which it determined women should be required to register for the military draft. The report said women between the ages of 18 and 26 should be included in the same Selective Service System.
“The Commission determined that the time is right to extend the registration requirement to all Americans, men and women,” the March report said. “The current disparate treatment of women unacceptably excludes women from a fundamental civic obligation and reinforces gender stereotypes about the role of women, undermining national security.”
Combat roles in the U.S. military have been increasingly opened to women in recent years. In 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. Department of Defense needed more data to study the effectiveness of women in combat roles and said the “the jury is out” on the subject.
In July, the first female “Green Beret” graduated from the U.S. Army Special Forces qualification course.