Female US soldiers sue to lift combat ban


US Female Marine, Gunnery Sargeant Michelle Mollen of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment, patrols in Garmser, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on March 12, 2011.


Adek Berry

Two female soldiers are suing the US government in an attempt to lift the country's ban on women in combat.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jane Baldwin and Col. Ellen Harding filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday to put an end to restrictions in combat positions “solely on the basis of sex," The Hill reported.

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The litigation, filed in US District Court in Washington, names Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Secretary John McHugh as defendants, among others.

The women, who are both Army reservists, claim their military careers have been hampered by the ban on women in combat, and want  the court to rule it unconstitutional for violating their equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment, according to The Hill.

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The Pentagon unveiled a new policy in February that opened up 14,000 more positions to women in the military. It still barred them from serving in infantry, armor and special-operations units whose main job is front-line combat, Reuters reported.

Women make up about 14.5 percent of active-duty military personnel, according to Pentagon figures. At least 144 female troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 860 have been wounded since the conflicts began, Bloomberg reported.

Defense Department spokesman George Little declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

He did say in an e-mail that Panetta “is strongly committed to examining the expansion of roles for women in the U.S. military, as evidenced by the recent step of opening up thousands of more assignments to women.”