A main area of sexual bias against men and gynocentrist favoritism for women is in men having to register for the selective service (draft) while women do not. A citizen’s individual rights come with a corresponding duty. Exclusion of rights is based on the person not being a “citizen” or they have limited rights from limited responsibilities. In the U.S. voting has always been tied to the responsibility to serve in defense of the state. Given the right to vote, women continue to avoid the responsibility of defense even though all barriers and legal arguments to exempt them have been rendered moot.
We hear much about women’s fight for the right to vote which they gained in 1920, but many are unaware that the individual right to vote for all citizen’s in the U.S. didn’t occur until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Prior to the 1840’s most men, regardless of race, were denied the right to vote yet still had the responsibility to serve in defense. And many men didn’t gain equal access to the vote until 1965 and yet still had the responsibility to serve in national defense.
During the colonial period and the Revolutionary War conscription was a state issue. Most states required able bodied men to serve in the local militia. Often a militia unit would be called up for a campaign and service would be for that campaign only or a limited time. Given frontier and colonial life it was important to leave some able bodied men at home to work fields and guard the home front and often the militias were fighting in proximity of their homes to prevent invasion. Avoiding militia service was usually rendered impossible as it was your community being invaded and you were fighting for both life, property, and liberty and running or hiding impossible.
When the U.S. Constitution was enacted and the vote for the new government held it was up to each state to decide on who was eligible vote and most had property ownership or tax paying and European ancestry as requirements. As such only about 7% of the population could vote to chose the first President. When war broke out again in 1812 a mandatory conscription at the federal level was shot down and mandatory service remained with the states. The argument against conscription was that it was not authorized by the U.S. Constitution and was counter to individual liberty, a forced servitude.
Demand for equal suffrage for all white males was strong in the early 1800’s. White males bore the responsibility to serve at times of war but were disenfranchised from participating in the decision of who decided they went to war which was opposite to the ideals of the fledgling Republic. By the 1830’s most states removed property ownership as a voting requirement but limited participation to free white men. Some limited voting to tax payers and in some states free black men could vote. But by the 1840’s most states limited voting to free white men. Eligible voters had increase by 20 times from 1820 to 1840 with over 2 million voting.
Prior to the Civil War the Woman’s Suffrage movement and the Abolitionist Movement worked closely together. The woman’s suffrage movement was based upon women and men being equal taking the wording from the Declaration of Independence with addition, “all men and women are created equal”. Opponents pointed to the higher calling for women as family caregivers, being the “fairer sex” and nurturing, in effect putting motherhood on a pedestal with women superior to men in that regard. The responsibility to serve in defense of the country was a main talking point against a woman’s right to vote as they did not have the full responsibilities of a citizen. The outbreak of the Civil War put Woman’s Suffrage on hold.
Citizen status conveys rights, duties, and benefits. The right to vote centered on the definition of “citizen”. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case (1857) said that no man of African Ancestry could claim U.S. Citizenship as a right. Denial of the vote to women was based upon the lack of responsibility as a reason to deny the right to vote. The woman’s movement split with one side staying with the men and women are equal argument and taking an anti-Abolitionist position of no vote for women, no vote for blacks. The other side of the suffrage movement started to argue that woman’s superior nurturing made her qualified to exercise the the right and responsibility of voting.
The Civil War saw both sides enact mandatory military service. Both sides met 90% of their manpower needs with volunteers and looked to fill out the ranks with a draft. The south exempted plantation owners and the north allowed commutation money for exemption. Both sides allowed for substitutes and most conscripted were substitutes. The unfair policies of the draft caused widespread evasion and even violent protests, such as in New York City where riots resulted in the military coming in to restore order. The draft ended with the end of the war.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1868) guaranteed citizenship to all male’s born or naturalized in the U.S. which set aside the Dred Scott decision. And the 15th Amendment prevented states from preventing voting rights based upon, race, color, or previous servitude. Various methods were used to prevent blacks, Native American’s, Mexican’s, and Chinese from being declared citizen’s or voting. Many areas had pol taxes and literacy tests as a condition of the right to vote.
The draft was reinstated at the outset of WW I (1917-18) for male citizen’s aged 21 to 30 and then expanded to include 18 to 45 year olds with 4 million men conscripted. It should be noted that the age to vote was then 21 years old. The draft was ended with the end of the War. In 1920 the right to vote was granted to women with passage of the 19th Amendment but in practice it was granted only to white women as minority women were either outright restricted from citizenship (such as Chinese and others) and the poll taxes and literacy tests remained in many areas.
It was in 1917 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled selective service and the draft Constitutional based upon rights having responsibilities, stating “It may not be doubted that the very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the reciprocal obligation of the citizen to render military service in case of need, and the right to compel it. This decision is based upon European Common Law (see The Law of Nations), brought to America and enacted here. Although gaining the vote 3 years after it was tied to the draft, sexual biases were strong enough that the responsibility to serve in any fashion was not put on women.
Pre WW II (1940) saw the first peace time draft of male citizen’s 21-30 years old and just after the outbreak of the war (Dec. 1941) it was expanded to 18-45 year olds as mandatory service and registration of 45-65 year old men was required. By the end of 1942 a Presidential Executive Order ended voluntary service (to control manpower for industries at home). 10 million men were inducted during the war, and 1 out of 5 men were classified fit for duty. Just past the end of the war inductions stopped (1947) but the selective service system itself remained.
In 1948 peace time draft legislation was again passed requiring all men 18-26 years old to register, this the model for our current system. With the outbreak of the Korean War (1950) the draft cranked up again and 1.5 million men (and 1.3 million volunteers) served during the war. This draft was the first credited with driving volunteers as a voluntary commitment meant greater control over branch and duty assignment. It was also the first draft with paternity and college deferments although paternity deferments ended at the end of the war.
When hostilities ceased in 1953 the draft continued. The cold war and looming conflict in Vietnam kept it going, manpower needs of the military were met by the draft and the enlistments that having a draft drove men to do to gain favored branches and assignments. Deferments were also used as a social control over men. By granting a deferment to an occupation or class of individuals, such as married men with children, government could channel men into socially preferred activities. These deferments for the “best and brightest” left a social divide between college educated and married men and poor single men, the “others” responsible to fill manpower requirements.
The voting rights Act of 1965, intended to prevent discriminatory practices against minority populations and bolster enforcement of the 14th and 15th Amendments, is in effect is the first legislation which had as a standard the theory of “one person – one vote” for all people 21 years of age and over. The attempt to treat all persons as equal, ironically, occurred as the draft was once again being ramped up in response to the Vietnam War. Again, women were exempted from registering and deferments were given to married men and college attendees. 18-21 year old men were subject to the draft, even though they could not vote.
The theory of rights connected to responsibilities was the impetus for the 26th Amendment (1971) which was enacted under the rallying cry of “old enough to die, old enough to vote” and made voting a right for 18-21 year olds. Again, the responsibility for men and the corresponding right was given to 18-21 year old women with no responsibility on their part. Unfair draft deferments were also under attack. The marriage exemption ended in 1965 and in an effort towards fairness a lottery system was developed. As the war ground down in 1968 President Nixon proposed elimination of the draft and the use of only volunteers. Even though the Gates Commission studied the issue and recommended elimination of the draft it was left in place for 1973, 74, and 75, but no one was called up to serve. The draft and registration ended for the time being, but the selective service system itself remained.
In 1980 President Carter reinstated the requirement that all men 18-25 register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. It was made a felony not to register and additionally there were many sanctions for not registering, including not being eligible for most government programs. A 1981 lawsuit (Rostker v. Goldberg) challenged the male only provision under the due process clause of the 5th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the fact women were prevented from combat roles allowed Congress the authority to treat men and women as unequal and look at military needs.
Once an equality movement, the women’s movement now is one based upon achieving benefits for women without corresponding responsibilities. The demand of women to be treated equally in the military and to open up all job titles (MOS) based upon ability resulted in the military removing restrictions based upon sex in January of 2013. One would think that the right to volunteer also creates a responsibility to register and women’s groups would support this as being fair and equitable. The National Organization for Women which advocates for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and other women’s organizations, remain eerily silent when it comes to women’s responsibilities to obtain these rights.
The National Coalition For Men (NCFM) had filed a lawsuit against male only selective service registration based upon equal protection under the law guaranteed in the 5th and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Citizenship conveys certain rights, duties, and benefits on all of us equally. It is very difficult to see how the selective service is justified for one class of people and exempted for another. Some women get it for there is a lawsuit by Elizabeth Kyle-LaBell who tried to register and was turned away because she was female.
NCFM filed in 2013 and the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to fight the case. Overcoming arguments NCFM has beat back opposition, won their appeals, and now has asked for summary judgement in the case. Certainly, the backlash of the anti-male women’s benefit movement on one end and the radical traditionalists on the other is the driving force behind opposition to equal rights and responsibilities for men and women.
As we remember those who have served this Veteran’s Day, the anniversary of the end of WW I, let’s honor our veteran’s by working to uphold the equal rights and responsibilities guaranteed to us under the U.S. Constitution. And when politicians (most who have not served and who do not have veteran status) placate us with hollow words of the value of veterans, let’s ask them why Americas sons are not as valuable as Americas daughters. And ask them to explain how sexual bias in selective service is fair and meets the equality requirements under the U.S. Constitution, a Constitution veterans swear to uphold and do so for all of us by their service.