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Editorial: It’s long past time to update military draft

The Selective Service Act of 1917 was written more than a hundred years ago. Men upon their 18th birthday are required to register with Selective Service or face criminal prosecution, denial of student loans and disqualification from citizenship. Registration would be used to fill the ranks of the military should the draft ever be reinstated.

Women are not required to register.

But women today serve in all military branches and are no longer precluded from combat roles. Warfare has also evolved considerably since the trench warfare days of World War I, reducing the need to enlist the biggest, fastest and strongest men. Technological skills and the ability to learn them are in high demand today.

The ACLU has urged Congress to update the 1917 act, but Congress has failed to. So the ACLU and National Coalition for Men petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which last week declined to hear the case. So we’re back to square one. The petitioners are right: Congress should either require everyone, or no one, to register.

So much has changed that the 1917 law really serves little purpose today except to reinforce stereotypes women can’t or won’t fight for their nation and are better utilized in support roles in times of war, like iconic Rosie the Riveter of World War II.

With an all-female delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, New Mexico has the chops for change. Our three congresswomen, all first-term members of Congress with a zeal for real change, should pick up the mantle and lead a bipartisan effort to update the 1917 law.

Perhaps we should do away with the Selective Service. The draft hasn’t been invoked since the Vietnam War. Maybe we should require young adults to instead register for civil service. But if we’re going to continue asking men between 18 and 26 to register, we should also ask women.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.