Armed Forces to Submit Plans for Implementing Repeal of Ban on Women in Combat

May 15, 2013 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The branches of the armed forces are expected to submit plans to the Department of Defense today describing how they will integrate women into combat positions following the repeal of the ban on women serving in combat units.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP filed a lawsuit against the department last year challenging the combat ban on behalf of the Service Women’s Action Network and four women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Shortly before the department’s response was due in court, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the repeal of the ban.

“We hope that the implementation process will proceed fairly and quickly so servicewomen can pursue all opportunities that allow them to best serve their country,” said Lenora M. Lapidus, director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Servicewomen should have the chance to compete for all positions and, if qualified, to serve in every capacity alongside their brothers-in-arms.”

The reports submitted by the service branches are also an important first step to ensuring a path forward for servicewomen like Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the ban.

“Our military works best when women like me, who have over a decade of experience, are allowed to compete for more jobs and take on greater leadership roles,” said Hunt, who has received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained when her vehicle was attacked in Iraq and who went on missions with ground troops in Afghanistan. “I’m currently in the process of deciding whether or not to reenlist and not knowing what positions will be open to me prevents me from making the best possible decisions for my future in the military.”

Since the repeal was announced, the service branches have opened some new positions to women, but more than 200,000 positions remain closed. The lawsuit remains active, but the department has been given an extension of time in which to respond.

“Our military can’t afford to lose talented service members simply because they are prevented from making the contribution they’re capable of making,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “No qualified service member should be denied the chance to serve our country in any capacity based solely on whether that person is male or female.”

More information about the lawsuit is available here.

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