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Women sue Defense Department over combat exclusion

Four female service members filed suit [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against the US Army and the Department of Defense [official websites] to end a policy which bars women from combat units and related posts. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], was also joined by the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) [advocacy website] as plaintiffs. The women claim a 1994 combat exclusion policy which denies women access to any position "below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground," has limited the potential of women's careers and is a violation of the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. According to the suit:

Of the women who have been deployed since September 11, 2001, 85 percent reported serving in a combat zone or in an area where they drew imminent danger pay or hostile fire pay, and nearly half reported being involved in combat operations. Many of those women have served in combat with distinction. But they have been deprived of the training, opportunities, and recognition they deserve because, under the combat exclusion policy, they cannot "officially" be assigned to ground combat units.
The women believe a court order banning the policy excluding women from combat roles will increase recruitment, field safety and general equality.

This is the second suit [JURIST report] brought this year by female service members challenging the combat exclusion policy. Last year a US military panel, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, recommended [JURIST report] that women be allowed to serve on the front lines of combat. Their report said that integration of women into combat forces would have no ill effects and recommended a "time-phased" approach to the implementation of new combat policies that would create additional career options for women that include "direct ground combat." These recent suits to allow women into combat roles come on the heels of another civil rights push in military policy-last year's repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. Last year Australia became the fourth nation [JURIST report] which permitted women to serve in combat roles.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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