Supreme Court Refuses to Question Male-Only U.S. Military Draft

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The U.S. Supreme Court refused to question the requirement that men but not women register for the military draft, turning away an appeal that challenged the distinction as unconstitutional discrimination.

With three justices saying they would give Congress more time to revisit the issue, the court on Monday rejected a case pressed on behalf of two men and an interest group by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A congressionally created commission last year recommended expanding the draft to include women, and the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the subject in March.

“At least for now, the court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a statement joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh.

The appeal sought to overturn the 1981 Supreme Court decision that upheld the male-only draft. At the time, women were excluded from combat, and the court said it would defer to Congress’ judgment that registering women for non-combat roles wasn’t worth the burden it would impose.

The Defense Department lifted the ban on women in combat in 2013, and the ACLU argued in the latest case that the male-only requirement has lost any legitimate purpose it might have had.

“The registration requirement is one of the last sex-based classifications in federal law,” the group argued in court papers. “It imposes selective burdens on men, reinforces the notion that women are not full and equal citizens, and perpetuates stereotypes about men’s and women’s capabilities.”

The Biden administration urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, saying lawmakers should be allowed to continue their work.

“This court should afford Congress a reasonable opportunity to consider the commission’s recommendations, particularly given their breadth and timing,” acting U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued in court papers.

The case is National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, 20-928.

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