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Leser v. Garnett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leser v. Garnett
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 23–24, 1922
Decided February 27, 1922
Full case nameOscar Leser, et al. v. Garnett et al.
Citations258 U.S. 130 (more)
42 S. Ct. 217; 66 L. Ed. 505; 1922 U.S. LEXIS 2250
Prior historyError and certiorari to the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland
The Nineteenth Amendment was constitutionally established.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William H. Taft
Associate Justices
Joseph McKenna · Oliver W. Holmes Jr.
William R. Day · Willis Van Devanter
Mahlon Pitney · James C. McReynolds
Louis Brandeis · John H. Clarke
Case opinions
MajorityBrandeis, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Art. V

Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130 (1922),[1] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution had been constitutionally established.

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The 19th Amendment The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that no one shall be denied the right to vote based on gender. Why was this amendment necessary? How long did it take for it to become part of the Constitution? Throughout the early 1870s, the National Woman Suffrage Association attempted multiple legal challenges with the hope of gaining women the right to vote. They argued that women should have this right based on the 15th Amendment, which states that all citizens should have the right to vote. The Supreme Court heard three cases on this matter, the most famous being Minor v. Happersett. Each time they ruled that this amendment only referred to male citizens. After these defeats, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony tried a different approach. They authored a constitutional amendment which was introduced in the Senate by Aaron Sargent, a senator from California who was a strong advocate of women's suffrage. He formally introduced the measure in January of 1878. The Senate made no effort to act on the proposal until nine years later! Finally, in 1887, the amendment was voted on and rejected by the Senate with a vote of 16 in favor and 34 opposed. Suffragists such as Carrie Chapman Catt then began to concentrate on a state-by-state effort to achieve suffrage. Many of the new western states such as Wyoming, Utah, and Washington were already allowing women to vote. Throughout the early 1900s, many more western states were added to this number, with 15 states eventually passing women's suffrage laws prior to 1920. However, despite these successes, the idea of a constitutional amendment would not go away. The amendment was proposed again in 1914, as well as 1915 and 1918. Each time, it failed to receive the required number of votes. The amendment was voted on again by the House of Representatives in February of 1919, and once again failed to pass by one vote. On May 21, 1919, the measure was voted on once more, finally receiving the necessary votes. It was then voted on by the Senate who also approved the amendment after lengthy discussion. This was only the first step in approving the new constitutional amendment, though. It had received the necessary two-thirds vote from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but in order to become part of the Constitution, another step was necessary. Three-fourths of the state legislatures needed to ratify the amendment. This could have been a lengthy process, with some amendments not being approved for years and years'if at all. The first three states to ratify the amendment were Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. All three of these states did so on June 10, 1919. Over the course of the next year, states continued to ratify the amendment, one at a time. A total of 36 states were needed in order for the amendment to become law. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify, making the 19th Amendment official on August 18, 1920. The amendment reads: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. The amendment was not a popular one amongst some citizens. Many did not feel women should be allowed to vote. It was immediately challenged in court. The Supreme Court case known as Leser v. Garnett argued that this amendment took away a state's right to determine for itself whether women should vote. The Supreme Court dismissed this claim and upheld the amendment as being constitutional. Some states still refused to ratify the amendment, even though it was now law. Many Southern states such as South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina did not ratify the amendment until the 1970s. Mississippi did not ratify it until March 22, 1984! Regardless of the protests against the amendment, the goal of the Women's Suffrage Movement had been achieved. Women began voting immediately, and they soon became a powerful force in the world of politics.


Prior history

On August 26, 1920, the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. The amendment reads as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide "Whether the Nineteenth Amendment has become part of the federal Constitution." The plaintiffs disputed the constitutionality of the amendment through three claims:

  • The power to amend the Constitution did not cover this amendment, due to its character.
  • Several states that had ratified the amendment had constitutions that prohibited women from voting, rendering them unable to ratify an amendment to the contrary.
  • The ratifications of Tennessee and West Virginia were invalid, because they were adopted without following the rules of legislative procedure in place in those states.

In a unanimous decision, the court addressed each objection in turn.

In response to the first objection, the court declared that since the Fifteenth Amendment had been accepted as valid for more than fifty years, and dealt with a similar matter (in this case, that voting rights could not be denied on account of race), it could not be argued that the new amendment was invalid due to its subject matter.

In response to the second objection, the court decided that when the state legislatures ratified the amendment, they were operating in a federal capacity as laid down in the Constitution, a role which "transcends any limitations sought to be imposed by the people of a state."

As far as the ratifications of Tennessee and West Virginia were concerned, the court remarked that the additional ratifications of Connecticut and Vermont after the proclamation of the amendment rendered the point moot, but the court also addressed the substance of the objection. The court found that as the Secretary of State had accepted the ratifications by the legislatures of the two states as valid, they were valid, effectively ruling the matter as non-justiciable.

See also


  1. ^ Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130 (1922).  This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 November 2018, at 17:48
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