BOSTON (AP) — Henry Tucker had worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for 17 years when he was told he was going to lose his job — because he hadn't registered for the military draft when he was 18.
Tucker was offered another job as a budget analyst at the National Institutes of Health, but that was withdrawn when the agency learned he never registered.
Tucker, now 38, said when he was 18, he didn't know he had to register for Selective Service.
"There hasn't been a draft since I was a child. To all of a sudden say this is an issue, that is unfair," said Tucker, of Washington, D.C.
A federal judge in Boston agreed, ruling in a case brought by Tucker and three other men that a 1985 law that bans most federal employment for men who knowingly fail to register for the military draft is unconstitutional.
The Military Selective Service Act requires men to register between the ages of 18 and 26.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock ruled Monday that a separate law that bans employment at federal executive agencies for men who fail to register is an unconstitutional "bill of attainder," an obscure Constitutional provision that prohibits the legislative branch from punishing people without a judicial trial.
Woodlock rejected the argument that the Military Selective Service Act, because it applies only to men, is discriminatory and violates the Constitution's equal protection guarantees.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the ruling and had no immediate comment.
The ruling means the lawsuit may move forward, possibly to trial. The men are seeking reinstatement to their jobs and back pay.
Attorney Harvey Schwartz said he will seek to have the case certified as a class-action lawsuit to represent thousands of federal employees who have been fired because they failed to register.
"Hopefully, it will restore jobs for … men who were fired not because they couldn't do their jobs, but because they hadn't done something when they were 18 years old," he said.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.