2 Army Reserve officers suing to lift women's combat ban

Posted: May 26, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. - Two female Army Reserve officers have sued the U.S. Department of Defense and the Army in a bid to reverse military policies banning women from serving in combat roles.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accuses the government of violating the constitutional rights of servicewomen by excluding them from certain ground combat units and other positions solely on the basis of their gender. It seeks to end such policies by the Defense Department and Army and to require the military to make all assignments and training decisions without regard to a service member's gender.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, names Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Thomas Bostick, and Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lamont. It is the first lawsuit to challenge the combat ban, according to University of Virginia Law School professor Anne Coughlin, who led an effort to look into the policies.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jane Baldwin and Col. Ellen Haring allege the policies have hindered their career advancement, and that continued enforcement of the policy unconstitutionally bars women from certain positions available to men, restricts current and future earnings, their opportunities for advancement and their future retirement benefits.

The lawsuit also notes that women are already serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and instead of assigning them to combat units, the military is purposefully and deliberately circumventing the exclusion by "attaching" them to such units. In doing so, however, the policies put the women in more danger than their male counterparts because they're barred from receiving combat-arms training necessary for engaging with hostile forces.

Haring has held positions as platoon leader, commander, executive officer and bridge commander over a 28-year Army career. She currently serves as a Joint Concept Officer for the Joint and Coalition Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Va. The lawsuit argues that Haring's options "were limited to support positions with no possibility to compete within the combat arms."

Department of Defense spokesman Todd Breasseale declined to comment specifically Friday about the lawsuit.

|
|
|
|
|