Updated 05/30/2012 09:22 PM
Push for more opportunities for women in the military
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other lawmakers are pushing legislation that would allow women more opportunities to serve in the military. This comes after two servicewomen have sued to challenge the Department of Defense policy banning them from serving in combat units. Our Erin Billups has the story.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time, the Gender Equality in Combat Act has made its way through committee, into the Senate's National Defense Authorization Act. The measure would repeal military policy barring women from serving in combat units.
"It reflects an outdated view of combat," said Ariela Migdal, ACLU women’s Rights Project, Senior Staff Attorney.
While the Senate bill sponsor Kirsten Gillibrand applauds recent moves by the Pentagon to open up more positions to women, she says it doesn't gone far enough.
Gillibrand said, "They just don't get credit for the work they're already doing, the risks they're already taking. They're not eligible for some of the benefits that combat gives."
The American Civil Liberties Union supports the measure and has launched a campaign soliciting more input from military women about how the policy has hurt their careers.
"Even if women have been in combat, they may not be eligible for those same promotions. That's why when you look around the tables of those higher commanders you're not going to see as many women," said Migdal.
But one military personnel expert we spoke with says removing the ban in the name of diversity could hurt the effectiveness of the Armed Forces.
"It's about physiology and that's reality. You cannot make policy based on Amazon myths instead of reality," said Elaine Donnelly, Center for Military Readiness President and Founder.
Donnelly sat on the 1992 presidential commission exploring women in the Armed Services, she points to numerous studies, including a British one that saw a 200 percent increase in injuries among women placed in combat units.
"You don't displace otherwise qualified men in order to advance women’s careers," Donnelly said.
Donnelly wants Congress to discuss the policy more seriously, in part through public hearings. Still, efforts to bring equality to the military are moving forward as the Pentagon considers opening up Marine infantry and Army Ranger training to women. And if Gillbrand's bill doesn't make it into the final defense authorization...
“I'll continue to fight for this until we get it done,” Gillibrand said.
While the bill has been blocked three times in the House, advocates see its success in the Senate as part of its growing momentum.