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ACLU Challenges Combat Exclusion Policy

SAN FRANCISCO, (UPI) — The American Civil Liberties Union sued in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday, challenging the Pentagon’s policy barring women from combat.

The ACLU and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP are representing four women whose “careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts,” the ACLU said on its website.

The plaintiffs — Air National Guard Maj. Mary Hegar, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Capt. Zoe Bedell, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell and Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt — “have all done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan — some deploying multiple times — where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen,” the ACLU said, adding the combat exclusion policy “makes it harder for them to do their jobs.”

“Women make up more than 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, yet the rule categorically excludes them from more than 200,000 positions, as well as from entire career fields. Consequently, commanders are stymied in their ability to mobilize their troops effectively. In addition, servicewomen are denied training and recognition for their service put at a disadvantage for promotions prevented from competing for positions for which they have demonstrated their suitability and from advancing in rank,” the ACLU said.

Two of the plaintiffs have been awarded the Purple Heart. The others have been recognized for their performance in active combat zones, including “extraordinary achievement and heroism while engaging in direct ground fire with the enemy.”

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