But the two presidential candidates disagree on a key foundation of any future draft: Mr. Obama supports a requirement for both men and women to register with the Selective Service, while Mr. McCain doesn't think women should have to register....The Supreme Court hasn't exempted women, it has accepted the exemption of women.
Both Congress and the Supreme Court have exempted women from registration because of the combat rules.
"There was a time when African-Americans weren't allowed to serve in combat," Mr. Obama said. "And yet, when they did, not only did they perform brilliantly, but what also happened is they helped to change America, and they helped to underscore that we're equal.There is a difference. The goal with respect to black men is complete equality, but the military isn't going to treat men and women exactly the same.
"And I think that if women are registered for service -- not necessarily in combat roles, and I don't agree with the draft -- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they've got obligations to this great country as well as boys do."
Elaine Donnelly, a former member of President Bill Clinton's Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, dismissed Mr. Obama's comparison of the roles of women and black soldiers, arguing that males and females, in general, aren't equal on the battlefield.It was 1980 when Congress decided to exempt women from registration for the military draft. Here's why the Supreme Court, applying heightened scrutiny, approved it (in the above-linked case, Rostker v. Goldberg):
"There are differences between men and women where physical strength is an issue," said Ms. Donnelly, who heads the nonpartisan Center for Military Readiness. "There are a lot of civilian feminists who are making unreasonable demands on the military."
Congress determined that any future draft, which would be facilitated by the registration scheme, would be characterized by a need for combat troops. The Senate Report explained, in a specific finding later adopted by both Houses, that, "[i]f mobilization were to be ordered in a wartime scenario, the primary manpower need would be for combat replacements." S.Rep. No. 96-826, p. 160 (1980); see id. at 158. This conclusion echoed one made a year before by the same Senate Committee, see S.Rep. No. 96 226, pp. 2, 6 (1979). As Senator Jepsen put it, "the shortage would be in the combat arms. That is why you have drafts." Hearings on S. 2294, at 1688. See also id. at 1195 (Sen. Jepsen); 126 Cong.Rec. 8623 (1980) (Rep. Nelson)....It's a different question whether women could be drafted and then not forced into combat duty the way men are. Presumably, the sex discrimination -- intentional, deep-seated discrimination -- would remain. I cannot conceive of forcing women into combat, and I don't think Obama can either. (He said "not necessarily in combat roles.") Can you?
In the words of the Senate Report:
"The principle that women should not intentionally and routinely engage in combat is fundamental, and enjoys wide support among our people. It is universally supported by military leaders who have testified before the Committee. . . . Current law and policy exclude women from being assigned to combat in our military forces, and the Committee reaffirms this policy."S.Rep. No. 9826, supra, at 157. The Senate Report specifically found that "[w]omen should not be intentionally or routinely placed in combat positions in our military services."...
The reason women are exempt from registration is not because military needs can be met by drafting men. This is not a case of Congress arbitrarily choosing to burden one of two similarly situated groups, such as would be the case with an all-black or all-white, or an all-Catholic or all-Lutheran, or an all-Republican or all-Democratic registration. Men and women, because of the combat restrictions on women, are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.
If you aren't ready to treat men and women as equals after they are drafted, what is the reason for treating them the same at the registration point? I have the impression that Obama likes the symbolism of everyone filling out the same paper forms for submission to the government and having everyone on notice that they too could be called upon to leave their comfortable lives and serve.
But if there really were a draft, wouldn't these unwilling women be put to work in the kitchens and secretarial pools? Wouldn't they -- not me, I'm old -- be stuck with traditional women's work?
Oh, but who needs to worry about that? There's isn't going to be a draft. Registering the women, and setting up all these discrimination problems will only create one more barrier to the draft. But if we ever reach the point where we must go with a draft, and women are registered, my bet is that the drafted women will suffer blatant sex discrimination in the military, and the Supreme Court will approve.