Our View: Women should have full-combat rights in the U.S. armed forces

DKS Editors

Summary: The four female plaintiffs challenging a Pentagon policy that largely prohibits women from military combat positions have it right. It’s time for total equality in the U.S. armed forces.

Despite women representing nearly 15 percent of the United States’ 1.4 million active-duty military service members, most female personnel are resigned to noncombat positions.

This startling statistic came to national attention when four servicewomen — all of whom have served in either Afghanistan or Iraq — filed a lawsuit challenging Pentagon policy.

The policy in question largely prohibits women from engaging in violent combat, and the plaintiffs say — and the Daily Kent Stater agrees — this practice violates all women’s constitutional rights.

The 1994 memorandum bars servicewomen from units likely to experience “direct combat on the ground” and also excludes them from assignments with “job-related physical requirements” they aren’t expected to meet.

It isn’t the ’90s anymore. Women are, and always have been, as capable as men in all regards, and it’s time to give them their due. Veterans and current members of the U.S. armed forces are some of the most widely revered people in our country, and it’s astonishing that women are still treated with such inequality in today’s military environment.

One of the plaintiffs, Capt. Zoe Bedell, put it succinctly in a Los Angeles Times interview: “[Women] patrolled every day. They wore the same gear. They carried the same rifles. And when my Marines were attacked, they fought back.”

The plaintiffs aren’t even arguing that women shouldn’t meet the same “physical requirements” men do. In fact, they are calling for the same standards: Treat all military personnel equally. If a person is unfit for combat, a person is unfit for combat — it has nothing to do with his or her sex.

The arguments against women in the military are growing slighter as the years pass. No, it will not disrupt “unit cohesion” because men have a “natural instinct to protect someone that’s a female,” Sen. Rick Santorum. No, women do not exhibit weaker “mental toughness” in strenuous situations. And no, the desire for gender-separate bathrooms is not a legitimate reason to bar women from combat.

Our country continues to broaden equality and increase opportunities for its people. Let full-combat duties for servicewomen be the next step towards a more perfect union.