Hegar, et al. v. Panetta
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP are representing four servicewomen and the Service Women’s Action Network in challenging the Defense Department’s longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions, known as the “combat exclusion policy.”
The four servicemembers have all done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan--some deploying multiple times--where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen. Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts. The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs.
Two of the plaintiffs were awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in the course of their deployments. Two led Marine Corps Female Engagement Teams, in which women Marines lived with and went on missions with Marine Infantrymen in active combat zones. Two were awarded medals in recognition of their performance while in active engagement in combat zones. One earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor Device for extraordinary achievement and heroism while engaging in direct ground fire with the enemy, after being wounded when her helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan.
Women make up more than 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, yet the rule categorically excludes them from more than 200,000 positions, as well as from entire career fields. Consequently, commanders are stymied in their ability to mobilize their troops effectively. In addition, servicewomen are:
- denied training and recognition for their service
- put at a disadvantage for promotions
- prevented from competing for positions for which they have demonstrated their suitability and from advancing in rank.