Is the Minimum Legal Drinking Age a Violation of Civil Rights?

Information released by the Department of Defense reveals that over 300 young American men and women below the legal drinking age have been killed serving their country in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. 1 Many more under the drinking age have been seriously wounded.

Although many of these adults were married and some were parents, they were legally prohibited from toasting their marriage with a sip of champagne or from celebrating the birth of their children with a drink.

In short, these military men and women were treated by the law as irresponsible kids who were considered too immature to have a drink --- but were mature enough to defend their country in deadly combat. That shameful lack of respect and dignity demeans our nation and we should be ashamed of our hypocrisy as a nation.

There was a time when racial segregation was required in the military. Today we recognize the monumental injustice of that discrimination. Yet we continue to treat military personnel under the age of 21 as second class citizens. Increasingly, legislators, college presidents and many other citizens are seeing this discrimination against adults as a civil rights violation.


  • 1. Personal communication from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, April 7, 2005