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Department of Defense Lifts Ban on Women in Combat - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Department of Defense Lifts Ban on Women in Combat

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is lifting the ban on women fighting in forward combat operations. With women making up nearly 14 percent of the military's active service members, those in favor of the decision say it's really just the military's way of catching up with reality.  

Lifting the ban on women in combat is a battle a group of University of Virginia students and professors have been fighting for nearly two years. Calling themselves the Molly Pitcher Project, they worked hand in hand with the lawyers who brought the lawsuit against the military's policies.

"The development is hugely important in terms of the quest to achieve equal justice for female service members," said Anne Coughlin of the Molly Pitcher Project.

The news is a victory for them, but they remain cautious about the outcome. "Until we actually read that text we won't know whether the decision is to lift the ban all together or whether is leaves considerable wiggle room for the military to continue to discriminate against women," said Coughlin.

Wednesday was not just a milestone for women in the military.  Those fighting on the front lines for women's equality say it's also an important day for them.  

"They can officially say, we too may be laying down our lives for our country so this means that we're entitled to particular rights and privileges," said Denise Walsh, a women, gender and sexuality  professor at The University of Virginia.

Walsh says this decision could also spark a more dynamic debate. "In the past we have been arguing about whether or not we should have women on the front lines now we're going to be arguing about how we're going to do that and that to me says we're going to have a more inclusive debate and that's going to bring us more equality in the long run," said Walsh.

Some veterans don't see anything wrong with the decision.

"I think if women want to be in combat they should be, you know, its an 'equal world freedom for all types thing' and I think if they want to be there, let them," said Everett Grayson, a veteran.

It could take some time to see the full integration of women in combat roles, but those in search of equality say Wednesday was a good first step.

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