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Fairchild v. Hughes

United States Supreme Court
258 U.S. 126 (1922)


In 1920, Charles S. Fairchild (plaintiff), a member of the political action group The Constitutional League brought suit against the Secretary of State and Attorney General of the United States (defendants) in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia to challenge the constitutionality of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment, also called the Suffrage Amendment, had not yet been passed, but proposed to give women the right to vote. At the time of the suit, 34 of the 36 states had ratified the amendment, and one of the two remaining states had just forwarded its resolution of approval to the Secretary of State. The proposed amendment was accompanied by a bill, requiring the Attorney General to enforce penalties of fines and imprisonment against anyone who refused to allow women to vote. The suit sought an injunction to prevent the Secretary of State from ratifying the amendment and to prevent the Attorney General from enforcing it. The suit alleged that the proposed Suffrage Amendment was unconstitutional because it would force states to allow women to vote even if the state constitution limited voting rights to men. The effect would be that all elections in which women voted would be invalid as violating the state constitution, thus taking away the rights of qualified voters. The Supreme Court of the District of Columbia dismissed the suit and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brandeis, J.)

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