Attorney for Women Wanting Right to Serve in Combat Not Ready to Dismiss Lawsuit

By: Sylvia Ramirez - Thu, 24 Jan 2013 15:27:40 -0800

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- A lawyer for four servicewomen who sued the U.S. Department of  Defense for the right to have combat duty said in San Francisco Thursday that she and her clients are "thrilled" that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the lifting of the combat ban.
     
But American Civil Liberties Union attorney Elizabeth Gill said  lawyers for the four women are going to "wait and see" before seeking  dismissal of the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in San Francisco  in November.
    
 "We want to make sure the implementation of the repeal is fair and  expeditious," Gill said.
     
"We're cautiously optimistic that the Defense Department will  implement this change expeditiously," she added.
     
The department's plan for allowing women in combat roles is due in  mid-May.
     
The servicewomen's civil rights lawsuit is now pending before U.S.  District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco. The department has not yet filed  its response.
     
The four plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Army, Marine Corps and Air  National Guard officers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
     
Among other arguments, they said that because battlefields in Iraq  and Afghanistan lack clear boundaries and front lines, women are in effect  already serving in combat, but are denied appropriate combat training and  promotions.
     
One of the plaintiffs, California Air National Guard Major Mary  Hegar, served as a helicopter pilot who rescued wounded soldiers in  Afghanistan.
     
She was awarded a Purple Heart for a 2009 incident in which she  was injured by a bullet that penetrated her helicopter, and she returned fire  after the helicopter landed and came under attack.
     
A similar lawsuit filed by two female Army Reserve officers in May  is pending in federal court in Washington, D.C.

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