A federal appeals court in New Orleans on Thursday ruled that the all-male military draft system is constitutional — upholding a 1981 decision of the same nature by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case, which was argued in March, stemmed from a lawsuit filed by two men with the National Coalition for Men who had challenged the historic male-only draft. They had argued that the 1981 case was outdated and was ruled on at a time when women were not as involved in combat as many are today.
Thursday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans found that “only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent.” The mandatory draft ended in 1973, but every male U.S. citizen is still required to register for the draft upon their 18th birthday.
Thursday’s ruling came despite a federal commission report that concluded earlier this year that “the time is right to extend Selective Service System registration to include men and women, between the ages of 18 and 26.”
“This is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency,” commission report said.
The 5th Circuit acknowledged Thursday that “the factual underpinning of the controlling Supreme Court decision has changed.” However, the judges presiding over the case said “that does not grant a court of appeals license to disregard or overrule that precedent.”
Plaintiffs in the case could seek a rehearing before the full 17-judge appeals court or go to the Supreme Court.
The case behind Thursday’s ruling came about after a 2019 district court decision declaring the male-only draft unconstitutional was appealed by the Selective Service System, the federal agency that administers the draft. The appeal was argued during a series of 5th Circuit hearings at Tulane University.
The judges were Carl Stewart, Don Willett and Jacques Weiner.Arguing for the National Coalition for men was Marc Angelucci, an attorney who was shot to death in July.
According to The Associated Press, authorities later linked the killing of Mr. Angelucci in California to Roy Den Hollander, 72, who was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 20, the day after an ambush shooting in New Jersey that killed U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’ 20-year-old son and wounded her husband.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.