Mattis Must Answer in Court for Marines Segregating Men and Women

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis can’t dodge claims that female Marines suffer harassment because they’re required to go through basic training separately from men.

The Trump administration on Thursday failed to persuade a federal judge to completely dismiss a lawsuit alleging that the military hasn’t fully integrated women into ground combat almost five years after the Obama administration vowed to end gender barriers.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen did throw out a claim by the Service Women’s Action Network that the “Leaders First” policy in the Army and Marines is unlawful because it bars junior enlisted women from entering combat battalions until two or more “women leaders” have joined those units.

The Marines are the only branch of the U.S. armed forces that currently segregates the genders for basic training.

“The purpose of boot camp is to break down recruits by stripping them of their individuality, to form a team, to listen to superiors and act on their command without questions, and to ‘make Marines,”’ according to the complaint. “The male experience is different in that misogyny, sexism, gender bias and the general hate that women have infiltrated their boys’ club are taught during segregated boot camp and reinforced in male-only units.”

Mattis argued that U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing Trump to enforce his travel ban restricting immigration from certain nations requires judges to be "highly deferential” when reviewing military policy.

Chen disagreed in his order, saying that the high court’s ruling applies to immigration, national security and foreign affairs, but not to issues of discrimination in the military. He described the Marines segregation policy as “facially discriminatory.”

The women claim that the president and his defense secretary have shown an “animus toward women soldiers” and promoted their continued exclusion from combat units. Mattis has stated that if women do serve in combat, “America’s enemies would no longer fear ‘America’s awesome determination to defend herself,’" according to the filing.

Chen, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011, allowed the group to revise and file its claims attacking the “Leaders First” policy.

The case is Hegar v. Panetta, 12-cv-06005, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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