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Female officers sue US government over ban on women in combat

Two female soldiers filed suit [complaint, PDF] Wednesday against the US Army and the Department of Defense [official websites] to end a policy which bars women from combat units and related posts. The women claim the policy has limited the potential of both women's careers and that the ban is a violation of both the Fifth Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act. The suit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] by a group of University of Virginia Law students and Professor Anne Coughlin [academic profile] who claimed in a statement [text] that "[n]o other employer in the country may tell a woman that she is barred from the job merely because she is a woman. It is time for the Pentagon to stop relying on sex as a proxy for fitness to serve."

Last year, a US military panel, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, recommended [JURIST report] that women be allowed to serve on the front lines of combat. Their report said that integration of women into combat forces would have no ill effects and recommended a "time-phased" approach to the implementation of new combat policies that would create additional career options for women that include "direct ground combat." The suit filed this week comes on the heels of another civil rights push in military policy—last year's repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. Last year Australia became the fourth nation [JURIST report] which permitted women to serve in combat roles.

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