Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case on Limiting Military Draft to Men

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to a federal law that requires only men to register for the military draft.

As is the court’s custom, it gave no reasons for turning down the case. But three justices issued a statement saying that Congress should be allowed more time to consider what they acknowledged was a significant legal issue.

“It remains to be seen, of course, whether Congress will end gender-based registration under the Military Selective Service Act,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the statement, which was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Brett M. Kavanaugh. “But at least for now, the court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue.”

The requirement is one of the last sex-based distinctions in federal law, one that challengers say cannot be justified now that women are allowed to serve in every role in the military, including ground combat. Unlike men, though, they are not required to register with the Selective Service System, the government agency that maintains a database of Americans who would be eligible for the draft were it reinstated.

The unequal treatment “imposes selective burdens on men, reinforces the notion that women are not full and equal citizens, and perpetuates stereotypes about men’s and women’s capabilities,” lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a petition on behalf of two men who were required to register and the National Coalition for Men.

The Supreme Court: Upcoming Cases

    • A Big Month. June is peak season for Supreme Court decisions. It is the final month of the court’s annual term, and the justices tend to save their biggest decisions for the term’s end.
    • 4 Big Cases. The court is set to rule on the fate of Obamacare, as well as a case that could determine scores of laws addressing election rules in the coming years. It is also taking on a case involving religion and gay rights and one on whether students may be disciplined for what they say on social media (here’s an audio report on that subject; and here’s where public opinion stands on several of the big cases).
    • What to Watch For. The approaches that Amy Coney Barrett, the newest justice, and Brett Kavanaugh, the second-newest, take. They will be crucial because the three liberal justices now need at least two of the six conservatives to form a majority. Before the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberals needed only one conservative.
    • Looking Ahead. Next year’s term, which will start in the fall, will have cases on abortion, guns and perhaps affirmative action, and could end up being the most significant term so far under Chief Justice John Roberts.

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