(CN) - Former civil servants ousted because they failed to register for the military draft on time must defend their sexual-discrimination case in Washington, the Supreme Court said Monday. The 1st Circuit revived the case in April after a federal judge in Boston rejected the constitutional challenge.
Michael Elgin, Aaron Lawson, Henry Tucker and Christon Colby say a federal law requiring them to register for a military draft is discriminatory because it applies only to men and not women.
Under the law, male U.S. citizens who fail to the register for selective military service between the ages of 18 and 26 are barred from certain government jobs.
Citing the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), the lower courts rejected the U.S. government's claim that the case lacks jurisdiction because such disputes are allegedly supposed to reach a merits board, then face appeal in the Federal Circuit.
"The plaintiffs in this case were hired by the federal government, served (in some cases for many years) as its employees, exercised official authority, and were then terminated," Judge Michael Boudin wrote for the federal appeals court. "The idea that Congress would implicitly exclude them from the category of former 'employees' entitled to seek redress under the CSRA - if and to the extent that their removal was outside a statutory bar or that the bar was itself unconstitutional - beggars belief."
Boudin ordered the lower court to reconsider the claims, even though he described them as "unpromising."
In a concurring opinion, Judge Norman Stahl agreed that the District Court had jurisdiction to hear the case but said he believed that the constitutional claims failed as a matter of law.