On July 2, 1980, President Jimmy Carter re-established the Military Selective Service System with a recommendation that the Act be extended to include women. After extensive hearings, floor debate and committee sessions on the matter, the United States Congress enacted the law, as it had previously been, to apply to men only. Several men including one Robert L. Goldberg subsequently challenged the gender distinction as unconstitutional. (The named defendant is Bernard D. Rostker, Director of the Selective Service System.)
In the majority opinion, Justice William Rehnquist wrote "[t]he existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress' decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them." Implicit in the obiter dicta of the ruling was to hold valid the statutory restrictions on gender discrimination in assigning combat roles.
White, Marshall, and Brennan dissented. Marshall commented that "The Court today places its imprimatur on one of the most potent remaining public expressions of 'ancient canards about the proper role of women'."
- Template:Note453 U.S. 57 Full text of the opinion courtesy of Findlaw.com.
- Rostker v. Goldberg Opinion From American University
- Summary of case from OYEZ