Fifth Circuit Finds All-Male Draft System Constitutional

U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest, left, stands during an Army Ranger School graduation ceremony in 2015. The Fifth Circuit ruled Thursday the military’s all-male draft system is constitutional. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

NEW ORLEANS (CN) — The Fifth Circuit on Thursday rejected a men’s rights group attempt to strike down the military’s all-male draft registration system as unconstitutional, finding that it cannot undo a 1981 Supreme Court decision “unless directed to do so by the court itself.”

The unanimous three-judge panel ruling reverses a finding last year by a federal judge in Houston who held that forcing only men to register for the draft was an unlawful violation of their Fifth Amendment rights.

An attorney for the National Coalition For Men claimed during oral arguments in March that the Supreme Court’s ruling should be changed because it came at a time when women’s involvement in the military was limited, especially in light of a 2015 decision by the military to send women into combat roles.

But the panel made up of U.S. Circuit Judges Don Willett, Jacques Wiener, and Carl Stewart found “only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent.” Willett was appointed to the circuit court by President Donald Trump, while Wiener and Stewart were appointed by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, respectively. 

“The Supreme Court has been very clear that when an underlining justification changes, only the Supreme Court has the ‘prerogative of overruling its own decisions,’” Justice Department attorney Claire Murray told the judges during oral arguments March 3.

The National Coalition For Men did not immediately indicate whether it would appeal Thursday’s decision in favor of the Selective Service System, which requires men ages 18 to 25 to register for combat, although it hasn’t been used since 1973. The group could ask for a full court review of the case, or appeal it to the Supreme Court.

Marc Angelucci, who represented the group in the years-long lawsuit and served as its vice president, was found dead in his home in San Bernardino July 11. The FBI is still investigating his death and its possible links to fellow men’s rights attorney Roy Den Hollander, who is also the suspect in the murder of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’ son a week later.

Hollander died by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound the morning following the attack at the New Jersey judge’s home. Both cases involved a man posing as a delivery worker before opening fire.

Authorities are trying to determine whether Hollander sought vengeance on the judge for her ruling against his own legal challenge to the all-male draft system, according to the Daily Beast, which was later claimed by Angelucci in a different jurisdiction.Founded in 1977, the National Coalition For Men bills itself as an educational organization that raises awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys. But the organization has been criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as advocates of male supremacy and for its “hateful ideology.”

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