Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff’s brought suit, alleging the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The federal government may classify on the basis of race, but only when there is an important government interest and the means are substantially related to the interest.
Issue. May the federal government require only males to register with the Selective Service?
Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist) writes for the majority, noting that the primary objective for the MSSA is to provide a supply of combat troops in times when a military draft is necessary, clearly an important government interest.
As to the means, J. Rehnquist notes that only men (as a group) are eligible for combat duty. Because of this, registering all women is a substantial administrative inconvenience for a small degree of payoff. Men and women are thus differently situated for purposes of a draft. Furthermore, most non-combat positions are filled by combat-ready troops that are rotated with other troops, further diminishing the payoff from the registration of women.
While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections.View Full Point of Law