If the president of the United States declares a national emergency tomorrow and gives the word to the Selective Service System (SSS), almost every young man between the age of 18 and 25 could be drafted into the army for service.
It wouldn’t matter if they’re a recent immigrant or American citizen. It wouldn’t matter if they have a wife or young children. It wouldn’t matter if they support a sick parent. Starting with those who turn 20 in that year, a lottery system would enlist the military service of trained and untrained men for their nation.
Of course, the United States has had a completely volunteer-based military since the Vietnam War, and most think of a nation-wide draft to be very unlikely in the near future. Much has changed about what President Clinton called the country’s “insurance policy”, including more opportunities for men to make the case for deferment in front of a local hearing.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the gender basis of the reserve. The SSS answers the question Why aren’t women required to register? by stating,
“Selective Service law as it’s written now refers specifically to “male persons” in stating who must register and who would be drafted. For women to be required to register with Selective Service, Congress would have to amend the law.”
But removing gender entirely from the requirement to register with the SSS isn’t far-fetched. In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that excluding women from the registry was not a violation of the due process clause of the Constitution. Since then, the Department of Defense lifted gender-based limitations for voluntary military service in 2016 (meaning both men and women could serve in front line combat).
This year, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled that an all-male draft is “unconstitutional”, calling the 1981 Supreme Court decision a clear case of discrimination. Regarding a civil action against the SSS by an entity called the National Coalition for Men, Judge Miller reasoned that “the average woman could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today’s combat positions than the average man, depending on which skills the position required. Combat roles no longer uniformly require sheer size or muscle.”
Judge Miller’s decision comes shortly after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to grant the current administration’s request to lift injunctions blocking the president’s policy of banning transgender people from military service.
So far, “there has been NO decision to require females to register with Selective Service or be subject to a future military draft. Selective Service continues to register only men, ages 18 through 25… The service branches continue to move forward with a plan to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service. Ongoing project is still underway,” states the SSS’ website.
In the future, it could be a real possibility that every young person could be required to register or face severe penalties.
Today, both cis men and transgender women who fail to add their names to the SSS registry can face imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine upwards of $250,000, and can be denied access to student loans, federal job training, and federal employment opportunities.
Marc Angelucci, who represented the National Coalition for Men said, “Either they need to get rid of the draft registration, or they need to require women to do the same thing that men do.” (USA Today)