The National Coalition for Men, a male supremacist group, recently convinced U.S. District Judge Gray Miller in Texas that that the male-only draft was unconstitutional. In his ruling, Miller found that the place of women in the Armed Forces is settled, since women are now allowed in combat and make up to 20 percent of the branches of the Armed Forces.
Miller did not mandate any government action, so his ruling would need to be embraced by the U.S. military and recommended to Congress to change the law. Since the draft has never been popular, it is not anticipated that women will have to register for the draft or fight and die for our country any time soon. But his ruling reveals much about modern inequality—and political hypocrisy.
I have no problem with women being treated equally. I fully support them being called up in time of a legitimate war. What astounds me is the rationale for Miller’s ruling. If 20 percent female representation in the military is enough to commit all women to the draft, the fact that women make up 50.6 percent of the U.S. population should compel legislators to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in 1923. It was passed by both the House and the Senate, and forwarded to the States for ratification, in 1972—but to become law, it needed 38 states to pass the finish line, and by the time an arbitrary deadline imposed on the campaign arrived, only 35 states had approved it in the wake of right-wing backlash against gender equality.
I lived in Kentucky during this time. In 1972, the ERA was passed by the State; afterward, the campaign for rescission mounted by the “pink ladies” began. They attended every legislative session dressed in pink and provided home-baked goods. Kentucky working women, such as me, did not have the time or resources to counter their influence—and in 1978, Kentucky voted to rescind the approval.
“The equal rights amendment, in sum, would dedicate the nation to a new view of the rights and responsibilities of men and women. It firmly rejects sharp legislative lines between the sexes as constitutionally tolerable. Instead, it looks toward a legal system in which each person will be judged on the basis of individual merit and not on the basis of an unalterable trait of birth that bears no necessary relationship to need or ability.”
Two years earlier, the voting age was dropped from 21 to 18 in response to the last draft, during the Vietnam War—and the phrase “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” became a call to arms.
Ironically, one of the most successful arguments against passing the ERA was the horror of women having to face conscription, and how their presence would negatively affect the performance the military.
But today, I say that if women are worthy to fight in combat, we are worthy to have equal rights.