The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense on behalf of four female soldiers who fought in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two of the women were awarded Purple Hearts for their combat work. Many women end up in battle, but the military still technically bars women from most direct ground combat. The women bringing suit say that lack of recognition is limiting their potential to be promoted. What role should women play on the battlefield? And do those gender differences matter during war?

Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
Rev. Marie de Young, former chaplain in the U.S. Army from 1993-97 and co-author of "Women in Combat: Civic Duty or Military Responsibility?"
Zoe Bedell, Marine captain and one of four plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Department of Defense

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Seems like common sense. If a woman can do all a man does in the military, including combat, then as citizens under the equal protection laws, should be able to be in active combat. Unless pregnant.

  • michael

    Is it really necessary to debase this quite serious discussion down to the extremely offensive “there’s nowhere to discretely put in a tampon”??

  • Ramona d’Viola

    As a former woman Marine, I’m amazed and insulted at this “Leave it to Beaver” mentality that women are still the lesser counterpart in the military. The military is still the only organization in this country allowed to legally discriminate against women in the workplace. Shameful.

  • Ramona d’Viola

    Look to the Israeli military for an example of how women perform in combat, e.g. honorably and effectively.

  • Erin

    I support the lawsuit against this ban. It seems like some are trying to pull in other issues and it is confusing the basic seemingly clear message behind the lawsuit.

    The sex and pregnancy stats are offensive. It seems like an ancient and woefully punitive mindset that propogates discrimination.

  • Liz

    My understanding is that the incidence of PTSD is much higher for women. This is a terrible cost both to the individual, their family and friends and to our society.

  • It seems pretty straightforward–even my six-year-old gets it. When I explained to him what they were talking about on the news, he said, “I think if a woman wants to fight, they should let her fight. Cause that’s not fair.”

  • Liz

    How do the statistics for the Israeli military look, where all women and men serve?

  • jennifer

    I have to wonder at the logic of holding women soldiers to a certain
    perhaps unneccessary physical standard, when it is sure that combatants
    in Afghanistan and other theatres of war are NOT passing height/weight
    tests before picking up an AK47. And if there are issues of unwanted
    pregnancy or sexual harassment in combat, how about we FIX those issues
    rather than pretend they are inevitable. The military needs to update
    their training to address these realities.

  • Kelly

    I agree with Zoe and also found Rev. Marie’s comments very offensive. I believe that women should have a choice if they want to serve assuming that they are physically capable. In part of Rev. Marie’s reasoning she said “women would have to live in primitive settings where there are “not bathrooms for her to change her tampon” was especially offensive and ridiculous. obviously women are capable of living in remote situations and I hardly think changing a tampon is major barrier!

  • Richard White

    I don’t understand why the issue of a woman’s background, i.e. whether she has been abused or not, etc., keeps popping up as an issue. Does the military exclude men from combat who have been raped, molested, abused, etc.?

  • Tom

    Taken to the logical conclusion, once the ground combat exclusion is lifted, there is no reason women won’t be assigned to infantry units even if they don’t volunteer (as is currently the case for men). Is this the desired end-state?

  • Rhonda

    I am a woman, law professor, and former Army officer. I have not been persuaded by any of the arguments made against equality of access to military service across the board. The issue of gender here is a complete red herring — it’s not the issue. The issue is simply one of competence to do the job. War is an evil. It harms everyone it touches. And people who choose to join the military during wartime, male or female, are making a choice I would not, and sometimes forced to choose this path when they have too few other opportunities. That said, I’ve heard no good reasons to continue irrational, gender-based distinctions between men and women in the military. It’s anachronistic and the country is moving forward on so many issues — let’s move forward here, too.

  • Stephanie Guinosso

    As a woman listening to the show who would never in a million years want to be put in a combat position, I just want to offer the women in these roles some serious props. Great discussion!

  • Mike Brennan

    I agree with those who say make the standards the same but at least tell women the truth of service. A terrible thing happened when women were first allowed in the military. They were not well protected against predators in their own ranks. Women in the military are 100% sexually harassed and incidents of sexual assault and rape are much higher than in civilian life. This is something recruiters never discuss. My guess would be that the combat arms jobs are filled with “predators” just because that is the job description. As part of this law suit they should include a realistic warning to women who pass the physical tests about the propensity for assault.

  • there will never be equality between men and women! I have to earn money to support my family but a woman can give up and let a man take care of her. I dont have that option! plus you joined the military knowing what it was and now you sue? why did you join? Make a womens military branch so i can sue you!

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      I know many a man who is staying home to raise the child(ren) while his spouse goes to work. And any wise man would marry a woman who understood that he wasn’t there to simply take care of her.

      As to your comments about she knew what she would do when she joined the military. Gays/lesbians also knew what the military required per not being/talking about being homosexual. Yet men and women sued for the right to be in the military and not pretend to be what they were not.

  • cynthiaprice

    Neither women nor men should be in combat.

  • The intelligent civil discourse is the reason I listen to Forum every work day. However, the issue discussed today deserved a higher level of representation than that provided by Rev. Young. I may not agree with the current rules about women in combat, but I appreciate a well thought-out dissenting opinion and I did not hear one today.

    KQED is no place for straw-men. You can do better.

    Still Listening,

  • MattCA12

    As usual, the military is behind the times. This lawsuit should fix that. Women live in the US, too. By all means, they should be on the front lines with their male colleagues defending it.

  • alanengg

    What is the first thing that women will face if they are captured during combat? RAPE! Look at Libya, egypt, syria, and on and on. Are women really prepared for that? Its not like video games where you shoot and chase the bad guys . In combat, you get pulled out of vehicles, beaten, dragged through the streets. When you’re a woman, you get raped by everyone even boys. In iraq, a soldier said at an accident site, the locals raped a bleeding unconscious woman. We live in mostly civilised society. The rest of the world where ‘combat’ will be, is not like us.

    Sure , let women sign documents and see videos of women in those areas, who’ve been subjected to that.
    Its about biology.. Can men get pregnant? Why are men designed to be stronger, taller than women. Know each gender’s strenghts and limitations and stop trying to gender neutralise, and ‘Hermaphroditize’ (as Dubya would say) everything.. Combat should not include women as we don’t want soldiers trying to protect the women soldiers from being raped.

  • Gunny

    Once women are given the opportunity, the obligation will come. Should women be forced to sign up for the draft also?

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