Last week, the US Senate approved a military policy bill that would require young women to register for the draft at age 18, just like young men. Americans have not been drafted into the military since 1973, but passage of the bill reignited a national debate about women, fighting, and equality, most notably among the many men in government.
That debate has been going on for decades. In 1981, the US Supreme Court ruled that women did not need to sign up for Selective Service because at that point they were not active in all aspects of military service. As of this year, The New York Times reports, the ban on women in combat roles has been completely lifted and female soldiers are on the front lines, in the trenches, and everywhere else. In light of this, soon it could be that everyone who turns 18 will have to register.
For many, particularly people who serve or served in the military, it was only natural that the Senate approved the measure. “It’s my personal view [that] every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said during the debate ahead of the Senate vote last week that there is widespread approval for an equal draft. “The fact is every single leader in this country, both men and women, members of the military leadership, believe that it’s fair since we opened up all aspects of the military to women that they would also be registering for Selective Services.”
But those who are or were not members of the military are much more circumspect about the prospects of ladies being obligated to sign up for Selective Service. For example Ted Cruz, who has two daughters, said he could not “in good conscience” support a draft of young women, “sending them off to war and forcing them into combat.”
More Than Military
Senator McCain, who did serve in the military and whose daughter-in-law is a captain in the Air Force Reserve, rejected Cruz’s position, saying, “Too bad that view is not shared by our military leadership, the ones who have had the experience in combat with women.”
McCain is not the only military man who wants to see a gender equal draft. A former Army helicopter pilot with two young daughters, Chris Marvin, criticized Cruz in an article in the Huffington Post.
Marvin pointed out that fewer than one in five members of Congress — so, less than 20 percent — have served in the military and that if their sons and daughters were actually at risk of being drafted they might take military matters more seriously. Marvin, who has two daughters, believes in a draft that includes young women and says it can improve not only gender-equality issues but make a more engaged electorate.