WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Pentagon’s new policy of allowing women in combat jobs has raised new questions about an issue that the U.S. Supreme Court settled 22 years ago. Should young women be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System just as young men do?
The U.S. Department of Defense issued a Jan. 24 memo that will give more women an opportunity serve in combat roles and military jobs that had been reserved only for men.
In a 6-3 vote in 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that because women were not allowed in combat, only men were legally required to register with the government under the Military Selective Service Act.
The selective service system has the names and addresses of nearly 15 million men ages 18 to 25 in its files, according to the agency’s website. The military is currently all-volunteer, so the service, once called ‘the draft,” isn’t used.
Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the selective service system, said Congress would likely change the law and require women to register because the Pentagon has allowed women in combat roles. However, no bill has been introduced in Congress to do that, he said.
Several students at Forsyth Technical Community College and Winston-Salem State University had mixed views last week about whether women should be legally required to register for selective service if the country has an emergency and Congress and President Barack Obama start a new draft.
Celicia Davis of Advance, the founder and adviser of the Student Veterans Association at Forsyth Tech, said she supports women registering for selective service.
“I think all people should serve,’ said Davis, who served as an Army specialist at Fort Bragg. “Our country was founded on freedom, and freedom isn’t free.”
Nolan West, a 17-year-old student at FTCC, said women should not be required to sign up for a draft.
“If we need troops, men can be there,” West said. “We need women in civilian jobs.”
Forsyth Tech student Ema Seferovic, 16, of Kernersville disagreed, saying that women should be included in any draft.
“It’s an equality thing,” Seferovic said. “What makes men more qualified to fight in a war?”
Jade Gray of Winston-Salem, a 16-year-old FTCC student, agreed with Seferovic. Women registering for a draft and fighting in combat are steps toward equality for men and women, Gray said.
“It is hypocritical to fight for women’s equality and for women not to go through a draft,” she said.
FTCC student Thomas Hiott, 18, of Lewisville, said he has registered with the selective service system.
“I know it’s the law for men, but women should have a choice,” Hiott said.
However, Denise Evans, 45, a Forsyth Tech student, said Congress shouldn’t require women to register for a draft because women can volunteer to join the military.
“Men can’t have children,” Evans said. “They should be required to register with selective service.”
At WSSU, Karissa Nelson, a 21-year-old senior from Charlotte, said female registration with the selective service is the wrong approach.
“I wouldn’t do that for me or my future children,” Nelson said. ‘I’m not saying that women can’t be in the military and be capable of going into combat and a war. But there are other options available.”
Theophilus Woodley, 23, a WSSU senior from Charlotte, said he has registered with the selective service, but he has mixed views on whether women should do the same.
“I know a lot of women who enjoy being in the military service,” Woodley said. “They reap the same benefits as men. If it came down to it, they would take men before women if a huge war started.”