Landmark Lawsuit Challenges Military Sex Discrimination
Service Women’s Action Network and four service women are challenging the Defense Department’s longstanding policy barring women from serving in direct ground combat positions in Hegar v. Hagel.
The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. The suit was filed November 27, 2012, in San Francisco.
The four individual plaintiffs currently serve in the Armed Forces. All have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, some deploying multiple times, where they experienced ground combat or led female troops who went on missions with infantrymen. Their career opportunities have been drastically limited by the policy, which does not afford them the same access to assignments, schools or training as their male counterparts.
Women make up more than 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel and more than 280,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Combat Exclusion Policy—a policy which was officially lifted by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in February 2013, but which has yet to be effectively dismantled—has prevented these women from serving in approximately 238,000 positions, many of which would prepare them for prestigious assignments later in their careers. This has created a significant talent drain and retention problem.
Additionally, upholding a practice of sex discrimination in the military contributes to a climate in which sexual harassment and sexual assault can flourish. Women must not be treated as second-class members of our military, but should have the same avenues and opportunities available to them as men. SWAN is honored to serve as an organizational plaintiff in this groundbreaking case.
Download the complaint here.