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All-Male Military Draft Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A judge says women must register for the draft the same as men. The military has not drafted troops since 1973, when it became an all-volunteer force. But men who turn 18 have to sign up for the draft just in case, and that is the system the judge says women must join. NPR's Shannon Van Sant reports.

SHANNON VAN SANT, BYLINE: A Texas court ruled the all-male military draft unconstitutional. Harry Crouch is president of the National Coalition for Men, an advocacy group which, along with two other men, brought the case.

HARRY CROUCH: We simply believe that people should be treated equally and have - if they have equal opportunity, they should have equal responsibility. If you're a young man, and you don't register for the draft, there are serious consequences.

VAN SANT: Men who fail to register can be denied public benefits such as employment in the federal government and access to student loans. Marc Angelucci represents the plaintiffs.

MARC ANGELUCCI: We have valued male work more than female work, but we've valued female lives more than male lives.

VAN SANT: He believes the process needs reform.

ANGELUCCI: If women are allowed in the - combat, which they now are, then they should be registering for the draft, or else we should have no draft at all.

VAN SANT: The Commission on Military, National and Public Service is studying the program. Joe Heck, the commission's chairman, says they have found a generational divide. Older Americans tend to feel women should not have to register or serve, while younger Americans say a draft should include women.

JOE HECK: In that age group, both male and female say women should have to register. It's a matter of equality. Now that women can serve in all military occupational specialties, they should register for selective service just like the males do.

VAN SANT: Twenty-eight-year-old activist Aditi Juneja says she was surprised when she was not required to sign up.

ADITI JUNEJA: I think if there is a duty that we do as citizens of this country, whether that's voting or paying taxes, that should be distributed equally amongst all of us.

VAN SANT: The National Commission says it will release recommendations for the future of the program next year. Shannon Van Sant, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF EDAMAME FEAT. EMANCIPATOR'S "PASSIM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.