Grandfather clause

Grandfather clause

A grandfather clause is a term used in U.S. English for 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. For example, a "grandfathered power plant" might be exempt from newer and tougher pollution laws. 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.A portion of a statute that provides that the law is not applicable in certain circumstances due to preexisting facts.


The original grandfather clauses were contained in new state constitutions and Jim Crow laws passed from 1890 to 1910 in much of the Southern United States to prevent blacks, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and certain whites from voting. [] Earlier prohibitions on voting in place prior to 1870 were nullified by the Fifteenth Amendment. In response, some states passed laws requiring poll taxes or supposed literacy tests from would-be voters. An exemption to these requirements was made for all persons allowed to vote before the American Civil War, and any of their descendants. The term was born from the fact that the law 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", states had to stop using the grandfather clause. Determined to limit the franchise, however, southern states created new barriers to voter registration, such as comprehension tests.

Strict application of poll taxes and/or literacy tests would have disenfranchised whites as well, and in fact tens of thousands of poor whites were disfranchised in the early 20th century. As time passed, southern states tended to expand the franchise for poor whites.

These laws had the effect of disenfranchising most blacks, Native Americans, and certain whites for decades. Ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the use of poll taxes in federal elections, but some states still used 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 secured for most citizens.

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 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.

*During the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, certain firearms made prior to the ban's enactment were legal to own. Automatic weapons that were manufactured before the Firearm Owners Protection Act may legally be sold to civilians.

* 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. [ [ Michigan State University College of Law ] ]

*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 to own 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), so they could continue to own all three stations after such law was passed. But no then-current broadcatsing companies that had a radio station in a city could acquire an adjacent TV Station and ones that owned a TV station in a city could acquire adjacent radio stations. In 1996, at a time regulations were heavily relaxed, this law was overturned. So today a company can own up to eight radio stations and two television stations in a market provided they do not exceed more than 33 % of advertising revenues.

tandards compliance

*Strict building codes 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, whereas most buildings built post-1981, in accordance with the new building codes, withstood the earthquake.

* The UK's national rail network Network Rail requires new locomotives and rolling stock to pass tests for Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) to ensure that they do not interfere with signalling equipment. Some old diesel locomotives, which have been in service for many years without causing such interference, are exempted from EMC tests and are said to have acquired "grandfather rights".

*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 will be part of the Interstate system in the form of I-376 and I-576, respectively, in the near future.

* US 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 a Jersey barrier along its entire 236-mile length.

*The FCC has required all radio stations licensed in the United States since the 1930s to have four-letter call signs starting with a W (for stations east of the Mississippi River) or a K (for stations west of the Mississippi River). But stations with three-letter call signs and stations west of the Mississippi River starting with a W – such as WBAP in Dallas and WIBW and WIBW-FM in Topeka, plus KDKA, KQV and KYW in Pennsylvania), licensed before the 1930s – have been permitted to keep their call signs. In the western United States, KOH in Nevada, KGA in Spokane, Washington, and KEX in Oregon have been permitted to keep their three-letter call signs.

*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.


*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. []

*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 2009.

*In 1997, to honor Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball prohibited all teams from issuing #42 in the future; current players wearing #42 were grandfathered in. As of 2008, New York Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera is the only player still wearing #42. []

*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 who is currently a free agent was the last player still wearing 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; they may now wear numbers in the 50s or 90s). The last player to be covered by the grandfather clause was Julius Adams, a 17-year defensive end for the New England Patriots who wore number 85 through the 1987 season.

*The NFL prohibits corporations from owning teams partially, so that ownership can concentrate on football as opposed to making a profit, as well as wanting the teams to have an actual owner instead of a board of directors at owners meetings. The Green Bay Packers, due to their unique ownership status with the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, are exempt from this.

*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. James Brown Arena (Augusta Lynx) in the ECHL is one such arena that has shorter ice.

*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.

*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 if they change, they will become 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, since Sprint is expected to phase-out the Nextel brand entirely by 2010.

The sponsorship issue came up after AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth in 2006. This gave AT&T 100% ownership of Cingular, and immediately announced the phaseout of the Cingular brand in favor of AT&T for wireless service. Sprint and NASCAR immediately 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 while Richard Childress Racing has time to find a new sponsor for 2009. [] In June 2008, Caterpillar announced that it would leave the #22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota to sponsor the #31 starting in 2009.

The Alltel sponsorship will be phased out upon the closing of the deal by Verizon Wireless to acquire Alltel from TPG Capital Partners and other private equity firms in 2008. Verizon Wireless has a sponsorship deal in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Gillett Evernham Motorsports that is not covered by the ban because it is in another series.

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.

ee also

*Ex post facto
*Generally recognized as safe
*Generally recognized as safe and effective
*Grace period
*Nonconforming use
*Sunset clause


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • grandfather clause — n: a clause creating an exemption (as from a law or regulation) based on circumstances previously existing; specif: a provision inserted in the constitutions of some southern states after the Civil War requiring high standards of literacy and… …   Law dictionary

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  • grandfather clause — An existing condition, usually in a contract or other agreement, that cannot be changed, even if the conditions are changed for others …   The small dictionary of idiomes

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  • grandfather clause — 1. U.S. Hist. a clause in the constitutions of some Southern states after 1890 intended to permit whites to vote while disfranchising blacks: it exempted from new literacy and property qualifications for voting those men entitled to vote before… …   Universalium

  • grandfather clause — noun A clause or section, especially in a law, granting exceptions for people or organisations who were affected by previous conditions. Many building codes include a grandfather clause exempting older buildings until some amount of remodeling… …   Wiktionary

  • grandfather clause — Provision in a new law or regulation exempting those already in or a part of the existing system which is being regulated. An exception to a restriction that allows all those already doing something to continue doing it even if they would be… …   Black's law dictionary

  • grandfather clause — Provision in a new law or regulation exempting those already in or a part of the existing system which is being regulated. An exception to a restriction that allows all those already doing something to continue doing it even if they would be… …   Black's law dictionary

  • Grandfather Clause — An exemption that allows persons or entities to continue with an activity they were engaging in before it became illegal through a change in regulation. For example, imagine there s a passing of a new law that states restaurants can serve only… …   Investment dictionary

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