One woman believes that compulsory military service would violate her orthodox Jewish beliefs. Another argues that she might be molested by men in the Army. A third simply feels that men can do the job better. They all believe a draft of women is a gross breach of American tradition.
The women, along with 13 others, believe that these and other arguments -- what they call the real arguments in favor of the all-male draft -- are being ignored in the lawsuit now awaiting Supreme Court acceptance. They have asked the justices for permission to participate in the case.
The women form an alliance as unusual as the one that brought them together.
Among the organizers were a rabbi from Baltimore, anti-Equal Rights Amendment activist Phyllis Schlafly and a prominent Washington lawyer who once worked in the civil rights division of the Justice Department.
The courts rarely smile upon efforts to intervene in a case. Intervention, which may allow someone not, originally involved in a case to participate in written and oral arguments, is reserved for rare instances when the court is convinced that the intervenor has a major stake in a case and no voice defending it. Permission is especially unusual -- almost unheard of -- at the Supreme Court level.
If nothing else, however, the group will have attracted some attention to its arguments against drafting women and will have made sure that someone at the court hears them before the routine rush of "friend-of-the-court" briefs.
They also will have succeeded in stirring up their opposition -- the lawyers and plantiffs who brought the challenge to the all-male draft. A three-judge panel in Philadelphia ruled July 18 that Congress' reason for excluding women from the draft registration program -- military flexibility -- was constitutionally insufficient. There was nothing about sexual abuse, religious scruples, female capabilities or tradition mentioned.
The women would "transform the proceedings . . . into a trial of nebulous issues of socio-psychology," those lawyers have told the court in response to the women's effort.
It is, of course, just such issues that the women feel ought to be tried in this case.
Karen Johnson, for example, told the court that service in the armed forces would violate her right to privacy. Military life is "governed by male culture . . . and accepts body contact, foul language and personally offensive remarks which [she] as a lady finds obnoxious."
Felicity Smith, of Missouri, said she too would find "intolerable the lack of privacy, particularly the dressing, bathing, toilet and sleeping facilities. These aspects of military life," she told the court, "are contrary to her nature as a woman and to the personal behavior and habits which are part of her feminine nature."
Agnes Zepeda said she knows, "from having grown up with brothers in the family, that she is unable to equal men in performing tasks which require physical strength and agility, and she does not want the national defense to depend on her ability to perform physically taxing jobs."
Anna Harrington, of Virginia, does not want women drafted because she believes "that combat and other tasks performed by those in the military service are, by tradition and by actual performance, more capably done by men than by women."
Almeda Cannon, of Tennessee, said she "fears sexual abuse" in the military.
And Esther Glucksman, an orthodox Jew, said service would violate the Jewish tradition of tznius, or female modesty.
It was that concern that brought into the fray two people not ordinarily associated with Phyllis Schlafly's anti-women's liberation cause: Rabbi Herman Neuberger and Washington lawyer Nathan Lewin.
The orthodox Jewish community is "very much aroused" by the notion of drafting women, said Neuberger, who heads Ner Israel Rabbinic College just outside Baltimore. "The education of our girls are strictly home concentrated. We don't want to expose them to the military in any form or fashion.
"Their rigid upbringing is not prepared for it and the exposure would be very detrimental to their values" and those of their families. Neuberger is chairman of a national organization called The Orthodox Coalition Against the Draft. It was Neuberger who recruited Lewin, prominent for his previous defense of Jewish causes and a former Justice Department official under Ramsay Clark.
Neither is uncomfortable about the alliance with Schlafly. "We have a community of interest with anybody who wants to oppose the draft" of women, the rabbi said.
"I think this position is entirely consistent with the civil libertarian view," Lewin said, "if you recognize that there are a substantial number of women whose views of their own self-image are really offended by the notion of compulsory military service."
Lewin and Schlafly said that there is no adversary contest in the case as it stands. One side, the plaintiffs, wants women included in the draft. The other side, the Department of Justice and the Selective Service, just got through arguing on Capitol Hill in favor of including women in the draft. Congress' refusal to go along with those administration arguments now makes it necessary for the Justice Department to defend that position.
"The people on both sides have the same position," Schlafly said. "They are not representing the interests of these girls. The whole notion of deciding this case without taking into consideration that point of view is shocking."
The strongest factor working against the intervention, lawyers say, is the failure of the group to attempt to intervene when the case was being considered by federal judges in Philadelphia over the last nine years. Schlafly said that she and the others were unaware of the existence of that case. They did attempt to join the suit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union in federal court in Washington. But consideration of that case was postponed pending resolution of the Philadelphia case.