Four women are suing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, alleging that the Pentagon’s policy excluding women from combat roles is unconstitutional, according to a report in Stars and Stripes.
The lawsuit charges that the policy, which keeps women from serving in combat, limits their careers in the U.S. armed forces.
All four women have been deployed to Afghanistan, and two have been awarded Purple Hearts. One of them, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar of the California Air National Guard, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after her helicopter was shot down in 2009.
“The ability to serve has very little to do with gender,” Hegar said, in the lawsuit. “It has everything to do with heart, character, ability, determination and dedication. This policy is a disservice to those women who put their lives on the line for their country.”
The plaintiffs, two of whom are Marines, also allege that a related policy that requires Female Engagement Team members to return to a forward operating base every 45 days to withhold them from missions further endangers their lives.
“To accommodate the policy, the women were forced to travel to and from the base on dangerous roads, and they were often taken out of crucial missions, sometimes for a week’s time,” says the suit.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of the military lifting a rule that prohibited women from…