What Are Your Rights? Legal Challenge to the Military Selective Service Act

Recorded on June 9, 2021

The Supreme Court considered whether to hear a case that involved a legal challenge to the Military Selective Service Act, the federal law that requires all males to register for the draft at the age of 18.

Opponents have claimed that requiring men but not women to register is a form of sex discrimination. Partner Rosemarie Riddell Bogdan helps examine what exactly the litigants are challenging.

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Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: The Supreme Court considered whether to hear a case that involved a legal challenge to the Military Selective Service Act, the federal law that requires all males to register for the draft at the age of 18. Opponents have claimed that requiring men but not women to register is a form of sex discrimination. Here to help examine this issue is Rosemarie Bogdan, partner at the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Rosemarie, I’m going to jump right into it. What exactly are the litigants challenging?

Rosemarie: Well, the litigants were challenging the Military Selective Service Act, which requires men, at the age of 18, to register for the service but women not to. And so given where we are, in this day and age, it’s one of the only federal statutes that’s still on the books that treats men differently than women. And, interestingly enough, this was brought in front of the Supreme Court, and they have decided not to hear this case. But it was one that, obviously, is of significance because it is one of those few or very last of those federal statute that treats men and women differently.

Interviewer: So you just said that the Supreme Court has decided not to hear this case, but this has just come down.

Rosemarie: Actually, yes, and that doesn’t mean it’s not a very important issue. The Supreme Court basically decides whether or not a statute is constitutional. That’s what they do. They wouldn’t rewrite it. They don’t either say whether it’s constitutional or it’s unconstitutional. And I think, in this particular case, the justices are, like, “Listen, we would like the legislature to have some more time with this and re-examine this statute and, perhaps, rewrite it.”

So I think they declined hearing the case right now with the hope that the Congress will actually take up the issue. But, you know, we have a situation now where women, you know, serve in the military just like men do. So times have changed, and it is an antiquated statute. So…

Interviewer: Absolutely. In your opinion, what is the next step for those who would like to continue to push for change?

Rosemarie: Well, I think we have to understand that it’s a congressional action, that this would be a law that would need to be… You know, the Supreme Court only can strike down a law. They can’t write a new one. So with regard to facilitating change, along with what the Supreme Court was, sort of, indicating, is to lobby your congresswoman or congressmen with regard to the fact that this law should be changed and reflect, if we are going to require registration, it needs to be registration across the board just due to someone’s age, especially with women now serving in all sorts of roles in the military including supportive roles in combat and everything else.

So I don’t think it’s not an important issue. I just think it’s one that the Supreme Court said, “Hey, Congress. Why don’t you take a look at this?” And then, you know, if it’s not addressed, perhaps next time it comes back around, the Supreme Court would entertain it.

Interviewer: All right. Rosemarie, thanks so much for answering our questions. Of course, our viewers at home, if you’re just tuning in and you’d like to watch this again, head to our website, cbs6albany.com.

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