Law & the Courts

Male-Only Military Draft Is Constitutional, Federal Appeals Court Rules

(Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

A federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the male-only military draft system on Thursday, overturning a lower court ruling.

In an opinion issued Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans noted that the Supreme Court upheld the male-only draft in 1981 and said the 5th Circuit is a “strict stare decisis” court and “cannot ignore a decision from the Supreme Court,” adding that only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent.

There was no dissent in Thursday’s ruling from a three-judge panel. 

While the U.S. government has not employed the use of a draft for military service since 1973, every young man is still required to register for the draft when he turns 18.

The National Coalition for Men and two men sued the Selective Service System, arguing that the 1981 ruling was from a time when women were largely absent from combat. 

The plaintiffs could seek to challenge the ruling in a rehearing before the full court or in front of the Supreme Court. 

After arguments before the 5th Circuit in March, a federal commission recommended extending the draft to include women as well.

“The Commission concluded that the time is right to extend Selective Service System registration to include men and women, between the ages of 18 and 26. This is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency,” a summary to the commission’s final report said.

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