Last week the Senate Armed Services Committee approved requiring women to register for selective service within 30 days of turning 18, beginning in January 2018. The House Armed Services Committee narrowly adopted a similar provision in late April, setting up what will likely be a heated debate in Congress as we head into the November general election.

Before anyone gets into a tizzy over the committee vote, keep in mind the United States has not conscripted citizens for service in the armed forces since the 1970s — and has great success with an all volunteer military. There is no draft and it is unlikely one will be implemented in the near future.

Registering for selective service is a safety net, providing the nation with a pool of citizens to call to duty in the event of a national emergency. Until now, that pool of citizens has consisted of males whose names were entered into the system after turning 18.

As for adding the nation’s women to the pool of candidates for selective service, I say it is about time.

Women have played a crucial role in our armed forces since the Revolutionary War — including combatant roles.

I want to avoid generalizations because each individual is unique and it is unfair to try and fit an entire group into a single box. That said, when it comes to serving in the armed forces, gender shouldn’t be the determining factor on whether an individual is capable of filling a position. There are scores of examples (including from our own armed forces) of women performing with courage and valor under fire.

Arguing that women are incapable of the physical demands of military service or that it would be a detriment to the male service members should women serve along side in combat situations are misogynistic and ignorant.

Though every man is required to register for the draft, not every man is fit for military service. And those who have served and survived combat know very well the horrors of war. There is nothing glorious or romantic about it. War is not a civilized sport — and should only be engaged as a last resort.

That is the real debate Congress should hold — instead of constantly engaging our troops in endless conflicts around the world where no clear and present danger exists against our nation.

But I digress.

We are almost 240 years into what has become humanity’s great experiment with democracy. When our Founders declared our independence from tyranny, they saw fit to include the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Nearly 240 years after those words were written on parchment, it’s well past time for our nation to fulfill that promise. Either we all have the same rights and opportunity in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, or we quit lying to our children about who we are.

And if we all have the same rights and opportunity in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, then we all share the same obligation to protect those freedoms — regardless of gender, race, religion or heritage.

It is the price of being American.

Neal White is the Editor and General Manager of Waxahachie Media Group. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran. His recent novel, “Crosswinds” published by The Next Chapter Publishing, is available at Amazon.com. Contact Neal at nwhite@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1470. Follow Neal on Facebook at Neal White – Waxahachie Newspapers Inc., or on Twitter at wni_nwhite.