NOW claims more than 500,000 members. Harry Crouch, president of NCFM, would only say: “We have more [members] than you probably think we do and not as many as we’d like.”
But the dueling nonprofits have at least one thing in common: Both seek an end to the male-only military draft, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. It would be the first NCFM suit that’s risen to the high court.
Crouch, 71, says the case, first filed by NCFM in 2013, could be heard within six months. But Congress might make the case moot.
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“I think there’s a high probability that … Sen. [Kirsten] Gillibrand and a few other people like that … might rally the troops to at least pass some legislation that would be suitable to the Senate and could circumvent our case,” the San Diegan says. “They could do what we’re asking and simply cut the legs off of this, which I think is possible.”
His group’s goal is to reverse a 1981 Supreme Court decision that allows a male-only military draft. The U.S. Selective Service System has until April 14 to file its answer to the NCFM appeal brought by the ACLU after Crouch’s original lawyer, Marc Angelucci, was murdered last July.
“[The ACLU] offered to represent us because they are as concerned as we are about the issue — just for different reasons,” Crouch says. “We had lost our best civil rights attorney. So it seemed to me this could be good for both organizations. And maybe the country.”
Even though the United States hasn’t had a draft since 1973, men between 18 and 25 are legally obligated to register with Selective Service. Scofflaws face fines up to $250,000 and a potential five-year prison term.
NCFM is representing two young men — Anthony Davis of San Diego and James Lesmeister of Texas.
In a friend of the court brief, NOW Foundation lawyers say male-only draft registration perpetuates harmful stereotypes — that women are meant to stay home and care for the kids, while men go off to war to fight for their country.
“This division of roles between women who need protection and the men who can provide it can no longer be maintained,” said the brief filed Feb. 11.
NOW added: “To reap equal rewards of citizenship, women must equally bear its burdens. … Congress’s failure to include women in the MSSA’s registration scheme perpetuates invidious stereotypes and archaic generalizations about the limited role women can and should play in serving their country, and imposes real harm.”
The ACLU says its petition doesn’t ask the Supreme Court to require women to register for the Selective Service.
“It is asking the Court to declare that the men-only draft registration system discriminates on the basis of sex,” the ACLU says. “Ending sex-based registration would be a significant advancement in equal protection law for men, women and LGBTQ people.”
A federal judge in Houston agreed with NCFM in February 2019.
“The male-only registration requirement of the Military Selective Service Act, 50 U.S.C. § 3802(a), violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” wrote Judge Gray H. Miller.
But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in August 2020 overturned Miller’s decision, citing the 1981 Rostker case as final say.
Crouch thought the 5th Circuit was a slam dunk to uphold Miller’s decision — which noted that women were now in combat, unlike the situation in 1981.
“And they came up with … ‘We’re not going to make a decision because we don’t have the authority to overturn a Supreme Court decision.’ What? What? Where’d that come from? They certainly did,” he said in a phone interview.
Speaking for himself, Crouch said he backs the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
“I always thought that had that been passed, a lot of the issues that we’re dealing with now, we wouldn’t be dealing with,” he said. “Family courts might have been totally different. The sentencing could have been impacted. All sorts of things. Parenthood, huge differences in parenthood … custody issues.”
He added: “We’re really about equality. I hate that word. But it’s an unachievable goal. You can’t get it. Just like equal opportunity. You can’t get it. It’s something you can chase, but you can never as a society or as a culture … have it.”
But he took a swipe at some feminist groups.
“These ideological groups … hate men or see advantage of hating men,” Crouch said. “And there’s big money in hating men. Huge money. We’re talking billions of dollars. There’s zero money in hating women.”
Crouch, a San Diegan for 26 years who isn’t paid for his NCFM role, has a more personal reason to see the draft case through. His friend Angelucci — a former San Diegan — was the case’s lead lawyer before being slain July 11 by rival attorney Roy Den Hollander in Crestline.
Hollander, 72, committed suicide a day after a later shooting that killed the 20-year-old son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas and wounded her husband, authorities said. Salas told her story recently on “60 Minutes,” saying she was the intended target.
Another potential target was Crouch.
Hollander lobbied to be involved with the NCFM Selective Service case years ago, Crouch said.
“He wanted to be on our legal team. And he was a jerk,” said Crouch, who spoke to the FBI. After being rejected, Hollander “threatened to come out here and kick my ass. … I’m actually surprised he didn’t come after me instead of Marc.”
“Marc didn’t really do anything. He wouldn’t have gotten that much publicity if he had come after me. But when you take down an attorney, that says something. Marc was really well-loved. He was just a tremendous human being.”
Hollander had another Selective Service case before Judge Salas.
“So not only was he disgruntled — such an understatement — with NCFM and Marc Angelucci, who he saw as stealing his stardom, … he was upset with Judge Salas because had she moved his case along further, his case may have been the first one [to reach the Supreme Court],” he said. “And then of course he had terminal cancer, so maybe he just figured it was a way to even the score before he kicked the bucket. Not a nice man.”