Two female soldiers sued in federal court Wednesday to repeal the ban on sending women to combat, reports The Hill
Command Sgt. Maj. Jane Baldwin and Col. Ellen Harding, who are Army reservists, say their military careers have been stifled by the ban. They say it’s unconstitutional, as it violates their equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. and names Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army Secretary John McHugh, and others as defendants.
In February, the Pentagon opened 14,000 new positions, mostly in the Army, to women after reviewing women-in-combat policies. But it maintained the ban on women serving in units below the battalion level with primary combat roles and specialties like infantry or special-operations units.
While Pentagon officials said they were continuing to review the issue of gender and combat, the Defense Department said in a report that women don’t suffer from “less than equitable opportunities to compete and excel under current assignment.”
Some members of Congress have expressed opposition to the ban. “I am very disappointed the Department of Defense has not repealed its direct combat unit assignment prohibition, instead choosing to open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program, which I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,” House Armed Services Committee member Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., said in a statement after the Pentagon’s February report.
Also at that time, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., wrote in a letter to Panetta that “closing these opportunities to women affects their ability to develop a career path in the military and advance to higher ranks. Doing so in my view would improve military effectiveness, not detract from it.”
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