The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge from a men's rights organization, urging the Supreme Court to rule the Military Selective Service Act as unconstitutional, because of its sexist undertone. Now it’s in the hands of Congress to decide how to move forward.
It was an unspoken expectation, coming from a military family and social norms back in the ’80s for Ron Jupiter an Army Veteran.
“I came out of high school and 6 months later I joined the military. We had to sign up and that was the understanding. I don't know if it was the law, but it was the understanding in the school system at the time,” said Jupiter.
Jupiter joined the army in 1986, 14 years after the last military draft, which required all males at the age of 18 to register. Jupiter believes the Selective Military Service Act is outdated.
Jupiter said, “It's totally not within the spirit of what America is today. We don't care what your sex, your gender, your identity is. When you put on that uniform we are one.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to declare the Military Selective Service Act unconstitutional. The act can even have penalties today for men who don’t register. If you don't register for selective service, you aren't eligible for federal student aid, federal job training, or a federal job. You could also be prosecuted and face a fine of up to $250,000 and jail for up to five years. If you're an immigrant, you won't be eligible for citizenship.
Brian Klosterboer a staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas said, “This particular law is one of the last remaining explicit statutes and federal law that still discriminates based on sex.”
The supreme court has chosen to defer decisions surrounding this act to congress.
“It's important to note that the government declined to defend the constitutionality of this law. It still remains, you know, a place where the federal government is actively discriminating against people based on sex, which has long been illegal under modern Supreme Court precedent, and that men are still required in this country to register for the Selective Service,” Klosterboer said.
Although we have not had a military draft in decades, Klosterboer said this is a priority for the ACLU of Texas because their organization aims to combat gender discrimination in all forms.
Klosterboer said, “I think we can always open our eyes and realize where in the past governments might have discriminated based on sex, that this is no longer constitutional or permissible in our current society.”
The ultimate decision is up to Congress, who has visited this act in previous years, although there has been no change. Gender studies researcher and Professor of Sociology at A&M Central Texas Dr. Roslyn Schoen believes the matter of gender, is just a surface-level issue.
“The military has a gender problem. I don't think that this is the route I would take to fix that gender problem,” she said. “As a gender scholar is interesting to me that we're having a debate about men versus women in the Selective Service, because to me, that is kind of a flat and tired debate, men versus women, when women have been in the military in all roles since 2014. There are so many other things that we could be considering about conscription and the Selective Service and this very old piece of legislation.”
Dr. Schoen said congress now has the opportunity to address issues within the Selective Service Act that go well beyond the issue of gender listed in the piece of legislature.
“The world is changing, technology is changing, our ideas of gender are changing, and the quality of our Selective Service registration system can be revisited and a really a deeper look is needed as the world is changing,” Schoen said. “We have outdated legislation. Gender is only one piece of that Congress has the opportunity to update the whole thing here.”
For Jupiter, it’s a matter of mirroring today's societal standard.
“Having served in the military, I have been in many situations where it could have been, I needed a helicopter ride, it was a female that was piloting that helicopter. We need to move forward in terms of making this nation what we prescribe it to be,” Jupiter said.
It’s unclear as to when the legislative branch would be discussing this act. The ACLU has not taken a stand on what they hope the outcome of this case should be. They just want it to be recognized that the nature of the draft is unconstitutional.