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GOP Congressman’s Use of Women as Bargaining Chip Backfires Badly


Screen-Shot-2016-06-08-at-4.12.53-PM-300x195The reality of what’s happening in Washington is reaching new heights of disturbing with every legislative session.

Last month, Congress had been working on the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) – a complex bill that essentially handles the budget for our national defense. One component of the bill provided for changes that would promote gender-equality in the military. And that’s where things got nutty.

California Republican Duncan Hunter so could not handle the idea of women as soldiers that he introduced an amendment to the NDAA that mandated that women register for the draft. He figured no one would ever go for that, so the amendment was a surefire way to get the committee to vote down anything those scary feminists might want. I can almost hear this guy yelling, “fine! If you ladies wanna be equal, be EQUAL!” in that tone usually reserved for grandpas with early-stage dementia.

Hunter didn’t bank on the whole thing backfiring. And that’s probably because he’s so out of touch that it never occurred to him that people who fight for gender equality actually believe women can do the same things men can. The House version of the bill got bipartisan support without the vote of its chief proponent (a final version of the bill in the House was later stripped of that provision as a procedural move).  Later, it moved to the Senate and passed 85 to 13.   Hunter’s choice to create legislation that would affect millions of young women solely out of spite is a disgusting abuse of his authority as an elected official. But then again, so was his use of campaign funds to pay for his kids’ private school lunches while simultaneously supporting legislation that would allow more processed and less nutritious food in public school lunches. Yeah, he’s gross like that.

Hey, Hunter, this (not really) just in: women are part of the military now. Get over it. There’s plenty for women to do, both in and out of combat. The military itself has changed dramatically in recent decades; warfare is more than carrying heavy artillery and hand-to-hand combat.

Perhaps more significant than the practical reality of women serving in our armed forces, is the concept of equal protection under the law. Laws that treat individuals differently on the basis of gender are subject to intense Constitutional scrutiny, and pass muster only when gender-based classifications are quite closely tied to a significant government interest. I hate the idea of a draft, but that’s because forcing any person of any gender into the military against his or her will seems in equal measures barbaric and unwise. And my feelings on the subject have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with war.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz reacted to the amendment requiring women 18-26 to register for the draft:

“It is a radical change that is attempting to be foisted on the American people,” Cruz said in a statement. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind, makes little or no sense.”

I almost agree with Cruz. Just replace the “young girls” with the word “anyone” and I’d be good to go. The fact that Cruz (who has never served in the military) thinks that it makes sense to force boys to be soldiers, but that we should protect girls from such barbarianism smacks of the kind of sexism I’d expect from him. Chivalrous as Mr. Cruz’ argument is, there’s really no good legal reason to exempt women from serving our country if the need were to arise.

Let’s be clear. No one is getting drafted. Not men, not women, not anyone. Technically, we have selective service, and at any time, the Pentagon could institute a draft, but that reality would be beyond unlikely. Plenty of smart pragmatists have suggested doing away with the selective service altogether for those reasons, which seems like a pretty good idea. Then, if we ever needed a draft in the future, Congress could pass a law at that time. And for reasons completely separate from the draft issue, the NDAA is likely going to get amended or vetoed before it ever becomes law in its present incarnation. Still, though, it’s going to take me a while to get past the idea that instead of working together to find the best solutions to the myriad problems America faces, Congress is playing games that uses American citizens and our military as bluffs.

Follow Elura Nanos on Twitter @elurananos

Editor’s Note: An earlier version mistakenly listed Mr. Hunter as a U.S. Senator, he is member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The post has been updated.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos