Two female soldiers filed a lawsuit yesterday charging that the military’s ban on women in combat is unconstitutional and violates their equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. Command Sergeant Major Jane Baldwin and Colonel Ellen Haring filed the suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, naming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Secretary John McHugh among the defendants.
In February, the Pentagon announced a new policy that would open up more positions to women but the policy continued to prohibit women from infantry, armor, and special-operations units. In response to the policy change, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said, “I am very disappointed the Department of Defense has not repealed its direct combat unit assignment prohibition, instead of choosing to open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program, which I believe is ridiculous, considering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a pilot in themselves.”
According to the Pentagon, women comprise 14.5 percent of active-duty military personnel. There are 238,000 positions in the military that bar women, according to Vee Penrod, the deputy undersecretary of Defense for military personnel. The Pentagon has declined to comment on the lawsuit but told reporters from Bloomberg News that Secretary Panetta “is strongly committed to examining the expansion of roles for women in the US military.”
The Hill 5/24/12; Bloomberg 5/23/12; Reuters 5/23/12