Concept

Minor v. Happersett

Summary
Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162 (1875), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that, while women are no less citizens than men are, citizenship does not confer a right to vote, and therefore state laws barring women from voting are constitutionally valid. The Supreme Court upheld state court decisions in Missouri, which had refused to register a woman as a lawful voter because that state's laws allowed only men to vote. The Minor v. Happersett ruling was based on an interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court readily accepted that Minor was a citizen of the United States, but it held that the constitutionally protected privileges of citizenship did not include the right to vote. The opinion infamously concluded with the poorly crafted statement that "...the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone". This was clarified in Ex parte Yarbrough 110 U.S. 651 (1884) stating that "the Constitution adopts as the qualification for voters of members of Congress that which prevails in the State where the voting is to be done; therefore... the right is not definitely conferred on any person or class of persons by the Constitution alone, because you have to look to the law of the State for the description of the class. But the court did not intend to say that when the class or the person is thus ascertained, his right to vote for a member of Congress was not fundamentally based upon the Constitution." The Nineteenth Amendment, which became a part of the Constitution in 1920, effectively overruled Minor v. Happersett by prohibiting discrimination in voting rights based on sex. Minor v. Happersett continued to be cited in support of restrictive election laws of other types until the 1960s, when the Supreme Court started interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to prohibit discrimination among citizenry in voting rights.
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