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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A grandfather clause is an exception that allows an old rule to continue to apply to some existing situations, when a new rule will apply to all future situations. It is often used as a verb: to grandfather means to grant such an exemption. Frequently, the exemption is limited; it may extend for a set period of time, or it may be lost once a change is made. For example, a "grandfathered power plant" might be exempt from new, more restrictive pollution laws, which would be applied if the plant were expanded. Often, such a provision is used as a compromise, to effect new rules without upsetting a well-established logistical or political situation. This extends the idea of a rule not being retroactively applied.

The term originated in late-19th-century legislation and constitutional amendments passed by a number of U.S. Southern states which created new restrictions on voting, but exempted those whose ancestors had the right to vote before the Civil War. The existence of slaves prior to the Civil War effectively excluded African Americans while allowing poor and illiterate whites to vote. Although the original grandfather clauses were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1915, the terms grandfather clause and grandfather remain in use.



The original grandfather clauses were contained in new state constitutions and Jim Crow laws passed from 1890 to 1910 in many of the Southern United States to prevent blacks, Mexican Americans (in Texas), and certain whites from voting.[1] Prohibitions on freedmen's voting in place prior to 1870 were nullified by the Fifteenth Amendment.

After conservative white Democrats took control of state legislatures again after the Compromise of 1877, they began to work to restrict the ability of blacks to vote. Paramilitary groups had intimidated blacks or barred them from the polls in numerous elections prior to the Redemption. The coalition of Populists and Republicans in fusion tickets in the 1890s threatened Democratic control and increased the Democrats' desire to restrict blacks from voting. Conservative whites developed statutes and passed new constitutions creating restrictive voter registration rules. Examples included imposition of poll taxes and residency and literacy tests. An exemption to such requirements was made for all persons allowed to vote before the American Civil War, and any of their descendants. The term grandfather clause arose from the fact that the laws tied the then-current generation's voting rights to those of their grandfathers. According to Black's Law Dictionary, some Southern states adopted constitutional provisions exempting from the literacy requirements descendants of those who fought in the army or navy of the United States or of the Confederate States during a time of war.

After the U.S. Supreme Court found such provisions unconstitutional in Guinn v. United States (1915), states were forced to stop using the grandfather clauses to provide exemption to literacy tests. Without the grandfather clauses, tens of thousands of poor Southern whites were disfranchised in the early 20th century. As decades passed, Southern states tended to expand the franchise for poor whites, but most blacks could not vote until after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.[2] Ratification in 1964 of the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the use of poll taxes in federal elections, but some states continued to use them in state elections.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act had provisions to protect voter registration and access to elections, with federal enforcement and supervision where necessary. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that poll taxes could not be used in any elections. The franchise was thus secured for most citizens, and voter registration and turnout climbed dramatically in Southern states. Once again, African Americans were able to participate fully in political life and began to win elective office at many levels.

In spite of its origins, today the term grandfather clause does not retain any pejorative sense.

Modern examples



  • In 1952, the United States ratified the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution, preventing presidents from running for a third term (or a second term, if they had served more than two years of another's term). The text of the amendment specifically excluded the sitting president from its provisions, thus making Harry Truman eligible to run for president in 1952 – and, theoretically, for every subsequent presidential election thereafter – even though he had served a full term and almost four years of a previous president's term. Truman did not take advantage of this provision, however, for political reasons.
  • In the 1980s, as states in America were increasing the permitted age of drinking to 21 years, many people who were of legal drinking age before the change were still permitted to purchase and drink alcoholic beverages. Similar conditions applied when New Jersey and certain counties in New York raised tobacco purchase ages from 18 to 19 years in the early 2000s.
  • According to the Interstate Highway Act, private businesses are not allowed at rest areas along interstates. However, private businesses that began operations prior to January 1, 1960, were allowed to continue operation indefinitely.
  • Michigan law MI ST 287.1101-1123 forbade ownership or acquisition of large and dangerous exotic carnivores as pets. But animals already owned as pets at the time of enactment were grandfathered in, and permitted to be kept.[3]
  • The FCC stated that, as of March 1, 2007, all televisions must be equipped with digital tuners, but stores that had TV sets with analog tuners only could continue to sell analog-tuner TV sets.
  • In 1967, the FCC prohibited companies from owning both a radio and a television station in the same marketing area, but those already owned prior to the ruling were permanently grandfathered. For example, ABC already owned WABC-TV, 77 WABC, and WABC-FM (now WPLJ), and so could continue to own all three stations after the law was passed. But no then-current broadcasting companies that had a radio station in a city could acquire an adjacent television station, and companies that owned a television station in a city could acquire adjacent radio stations. In 1996, the law was overturned. Companies can now own up to eight radio stations and two television stations in a market, provided that they do not receive more than 33% of its advertising revenues.
  • California voters passed Proposition 8 in 2008 which made same sex marriage illegal in the state, however, same sex couples who were married before the new law was enacted were allowed to remain married.
  • In 1984 Mississippi passed a law changing their official mode of capital punishment from the gas chamber to lethal injection. Under the new law, anyone sentenced after July 1, 1984, was to be executed by lethal injection; those condemned prior to that date were “grandfathered” into the gas chamber. Therefore, three more convicted murderers would die in the chamber – Edward Earl Johnson and Connie Ray Evans in 1987, and Leo Edwards in 1989. In 1998, the Mississippi Legislature changed the execution law to allow all death row inmates to be executed by lethal injection.

Standards compliance

  • Strict building codes to withstand frequent seismic activity were implemented in Japan in 1981. These codes applied only to new buildings, and existing buildings were not required to upgrade to meet the codes. One result of this was that during the great Kobe earthquake, many of the pre-1981 buildings were destroyed or written off, whereas most buildings built post-1981, in accordance with the new building codes, withstood the earthquake without structural damage.
  • Wigwag-style railroad crossing signals were deemed inadequate in 1949 and new installations were banned in the United States. Existing wigwag signals were allowed to remain and 60 years later, there are still about 50 wigwag signals in use on railroads in the USA.
  • The Steel Electric-class ferryboats used by Washington State Ferries were in violation of several Coast Guard regulations, but because they were built in 1927, before the enactment of the regulations, they were allowed to sail. Those ferries were decommissioned in 2008.
  • Tolled highways that existed before the Interstate Highway System are exempt from Interstate standards despite being designated as Interstate highways. Many such toll roads (particularly the Pennsylvania Turnpike) remain as such. However, tolled highways built since the Interstate system, such as the tolled section of PA Route 60 and PA Turnpike 576, must be built or upgraded to Interstate standards before receiving Interstate designation. Both highways are to be part of the Interstate system, with PA 60 now I-376 and PA Turnpike 576 to become I-576 in the near future. As well, U.S. Interstate Highway standards mandate a minimum 11-foot median; however, highways built prior to those standards have been grandfathered into the system. The Kansas Turnpike is the most notable example, as it has been retrofitted with a Jersey barrier along its entire 236-mile length.
  • The earliest Ontario 400-series highways and other expressways do not meet current standards, however it would be prohibitively expensive to immediately rebuild them all to updated guidelines, unless a reconstruction is warranted by safety concerns and traffic levels. As a result, substandard sections of freeways such as low overpasses and short acceleration/de-acceleration lanes are often retrofitted with guard rail, warning signage, lower speed limits, or lighting.
  • In aviation, grandfather rights refers to the control that airlines exert over “slots” (that is, times alloted for access to runways). While the trend in airport management has been to reassert control over these slots, many airlines are able to retain their traditional rights based on current licenses.
  • In the UK, until 1992, holders of ordinary car licenses were allowed to drive buses and coaches of any size, provided that the use was not commercial and that there was no element of "hire or reward" in the vehicles' use; in other words, no one was paying to be carried. The law was changed in 1992 so that drivers had to hold a PCV (PSV) license, but anyone who had driven buses prior to 1992 under the old rules was given grandfather rights to carry on doing so.


  • Beginning in 1979, the National Hockey League required all players to wear helmets. But if a player had signed his first professional contract before this ruling, he was allowed to play without a helmet. Craig MacTavish was the last player to do so, playing without a helmet up until his retirement in 1997, other notable players include Guy LaFleur and Rod Langway who retired in 1991 and 1993, respectively.[4] Kerry Fraser was the last referee who was not required to wear a helmet, until the ratification of the new NHL Officials Association collective bargaining agreement on March 21, 2006. Some have speculated that if the NHL makes visors mandatory, older players will be exempt.
  • Three former venues in the National Hockey LeagueChicago Stadium, Boston Garden, and Buffalo Memorial Auditorium – had shorter-than-regulation ice surface, as their construction predated the regulation. The distance was taken out of the neutral zone and this often threw visiting players off of their game, giving home teams an immense advantage. Many fans believed this advantage allowed Bobby Orr to complete his famous end-to-end rushes more quickly in the Garden. All three arenas were replaced by newer facilities in 1996. The regulation does not apply in many minor league venues, and in older minor league venues shorter than regulation, the distance was taken from neutral zones.
  • In 2006, NASCAR passed a rule that required teams to field no more than four cars. Since Roush Racing had five cars, they could continue to field five cars until the end of 2009.
  • In 1920, when Major League Baseball introduced the prohibition of the spitball, the league recognized that some professional pitchers had nearly built their careers on using the spitball. The league made an exception for 17 named players, who were permitted to throw spitballs for the rest of their careers. Burleigh Grimes threw the last legal spitball in 1934.
  • The NFL outlawed the one-bar facemask for the 2004 season but allowed existing users to continue to wear them. Scott Player was the last player to wear the one-bar facemask.
  • The NFL introduced a numbering system for the 1973 season, requiring players to be numbered by position. Players who played in the NFL in 1972 and earlier were allowed to keep their old numbers, although New York Giants linebacker Brad Van Pelt wore number 10 despite entering the league in 1973 (Linebackers had to be numbered in the 50s at the time; since 1984 they may now wear numbers in the 50s or 90s. Van Pelt got away with it because he was the team's backup kicker his rookie season.[6]). The last player to be covered by the grandfather clause was Julius Adams, a 16-year defensive end (19711985, 1987) for the New England Patriots, who wore number 85 through the 1985 season. He wore a different number during a brief return two years later.
  • Major League Baseball rule 1.16 requires players who were not in the major leagues prior to 1983 to wear a batting helmet with at least one earflap. The last player to wear a flapless helmet was the Florida Marlins' Tim Raines in 2002 (career began in 1979). The last player eligible to do so was Julio Franco in 2007 (career began in 1982), although he opted to use the flapped version.
  • For many decades, American League (AL) umpires working behind home plate used large, balloon-style chest protectors worn outside the shirt or coat, while their counterparts in the National League wore chest protectors inside the shirt or coat, more akin to those worn by catchers. In 1977, the AL ruled that all umpires entering the league had to wear the inside protector, although umpires already in the league who were using the outside protector could continue to do so. The last umpire to regularly wear the outside protector was Jerry Neudecker, who retired after the 1985 season. Since 2000, Major League Baseball has used the same umpire crews for both leagues.
  • The National Hot Rod Association is enforcing a grandfather clause banning energy drink sponsors from entering the sport if they were not sponsoring cars as of April 24, 2008, pursuant to the five-year extension of its sponsorship with Coca-Cola, which is changing the title sponsorship from Powerade to Full Throttle Energy Drink.


In NASCAR, grandfather clause protection refers to sponsorship by Alltel, Cingular, Samsung, and RadioShack for a race at Texas Motor Speedway, in reference to a prohibition established on June 19, 2003, on NASCAR sponsorships in the Nextel Cup Series. No telecommunications company's advertising is permitted at NASCAR Nextel Cup Series events under the exclusivity agreement between NASCAR and Nextel. (Samsung was prohibited because they were a technical competitor to Nextel, which used exclusively Motorola products.) All parties had been regular sponsors in NASCAR's then-Winston Cup Series since 2002. They may continue with their present sponsorships, but new sponsorships are prohibited.

After the 2005 merger of Sprint and Nextel, the prohibition on Samsung and RadioShack was removed, because Sprint carries Samsung products, and Sprint is sold at RadioShack. Nextel banned Motorola's primary sponsorship of Robby Gordon's #7, but Motorola can be used as an associate, so the Motorola logo could be seen on the door post of Gordon's car. The series was renamed the Sprint Cup Series in 2008, because Sprint is expected to phase-out the Nextel brand entirely by 2010.[citation needed]

The sponsorship issue came up after AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth in 2006. This gave AT&T 100% ownership of Cingular, and the company immediately announced the phaseout of the Cingular brand in favor of AT&T for wireless service. Sprint and NASCAR prohibited AT&T from remaining as a sponsor for Jeff Burton, even though SBC (which bought its former parent company in 2005 and adopted the more-recognizable AT&T name as part of the deal) owned 60% of Cingular before the BellSouth deal. A compromise was later reached that allowed AT&T to remain as a sponsor through the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, leaving Richard Childress Racing time to find a new sponsor for 2009.[7]

The Alltel sponsorship was phased out upon the closing of the deal by Cellco Partners (Verizon and Vodafone) to acquire Alltel from TPG Capital Partners and other private equity firms in January 2009. With one year remaining on the Penske Racing contract, Cellco moved the sponsorship to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, where it is not prohibited, where Justin Allgaier will drive the #12 Verizon Wireless Dodge in selected races for the team. [8]

A similar rule is enforced in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in regards to insurance sponsorships. The two sponsors that had 2008 sponsorship contracts with Toyota teams Germain Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing – Geico and Farm Bureau Insurance, respectively – must leave the series after 2008.

See also


  1. ^ "Grandfather clause". Concise Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  2. ^ Glenn Feldman, The Disfranchisement Myth: Poor Whites and Suffrage Restriction in Alabama, Auburn: University of Georgia Press, 2004, p.136
  3. ^ "Michigan State University College of Law". Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  4. ^ "Edmonton Oilers Heritage Website - Craig MacTavish". Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  5. ^ By Bryan Hoch / "Rivera 'blessed' to wear No. 42 | News". Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  6. ^ Press, Associated (2009-02-18). "Former Giants linebacker Brad Van Pelt dies". Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Cellco Partners sponsorship of the #12 NNS". Retrieved 2009-09-06. 


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