What's at stake in women soldiers' right to serve in combat

American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project senior staff attorney Ariela Migdal speaks with several active female military personnel who have filed a federal lawsuit demanding combat action. American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project senior staff attorney Ariela Migdal speaks with several active female military personnel who have filed a federal lawsuit demanding combat action. Ben Margot/AP

Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, four female service members sued the Defense Department on Tuesday for the right to fight in combat units, just like their male counterparts. Since 1994, there's been a ban on women being assigned to combat units, and this is the second case this year seeking to overturn it.

The women and the ACLU say that bombs and bullets know no gender, and keeping women off the front lines makes little sense in wars like Afghanistan, where front lines hardly exist. "It's harming women in the field now," ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Gill told US News. "Our clients in this case have served in capacities where they're shot at by enemy fire, they're engaged, they're attached to combat units. They're fighting in exactly the same circumstances as men but they're not recognized for that work."

She has a point. Women make up 14 percent of the military's 1.4 million active personnel, and they fight and die just like their male counterparts. They're also barred from nearly a quarter of a million positions within the military because they're not allowed to take combat arms positions. Things get even more difficult for women, when it comes to officer posts. About 80 percent of general officers aree promoted from combat units like infantry, artillery and special operations commandos, meaning that women have little chance to climb the ranks. "Why would we want to stop our military from selecting the top people for jobs?" asked Zoe Bedell, a retired Marine Corps captain and one of the plaintiffs in the case. "We are asking for the chance to compete for the same jobs as men. This benefits our military by having people in positions not because of an irrelevant factor like gender, but because of their demonstrated abilities."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.