Military Women Sue Over 'Combat Exclusion' Rule

A group of female pilots, Marines and soldiers gathered in San Francisco on Tuesday to announce the filing of a lawsuit challenging the military's policy of excluding women from many combat positions.

The four women plaintiffs, along with the Service Women's Action Network headquartered in New York, are suing the Department of Defense, and the suit names Defense Secretary Leon Panetta specifically. A representative at the DOD in Washington, D.C., was not immediately available for comment, but he did say it is common policy not to comment on ongoing litigation. 

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Marine 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell, Marine Reserves Capt. Zoe Bedell, Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt and Air Guard Major Mary Jennings Hegar in the suit, which was filed Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The four women have all served in Afghanistan or Iraq, and two are Purple Heart recipients.

Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy, the suit states, which does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts. The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs, the suit alleges.

Though the Pentagon is reforming the policies directed at servicewomen, the rules still bar women in the U.S. military from specific combat positions -- positions that are available to men.

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