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State appeals court banishes the term 'grandfathering' from its legal lexicon as racist

In an otherwise routine ruling on a zoning dispute between two Gloucester neighbors over a proposed garage replacement, the Massachusetts Appeals Court announced today it will no longer use "grandfathering" or "grandfathered" in its decisions.

About halfway down in the ruling (over whether a couple could replace a decaying eyesore of a garage with a new one closer to the property line than allowed under town zoning) the state's highest court noted that "Section 6 of G. L. c. 40A provides a certain level of protection to all structures that predate applicable zoning restrictions," and then added a footnote to that, reading:

Providing such protection commonly is known -- in the case law and otherwise -- as "grandfathering." We decline to use that term, however, because we acknowledge that it has racist origins. Specifically, the phrase "grandfather clause" originally referred to provisions adopted by some States after the Civil War in an effort to disenfranchise African-American voters by requiring voters to pass literacy tests or meet other significant qualifications, while exempting from such requirements those who were descendants of men who were eligible to vote prior to 1867. See Webster's Third New International Dictionary 987 (2002) (definition of "grandfather clause"); Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., Principle and Prejudice: The Supreme Court and Race in the Progressive Era, 82 Colum. L. Rev. 835 (1982).

Earlier:
Putting their judicial money where their mouths are: The Supreme Judicial Court and racial justice.

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Comments

Cue fragile white snowflakes whining in 3... 2... 1...

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Voting closed 36

Had no idea that was the origin! Happy to remove it from my own lexicon.

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Itchie, you are confusing the sides. The snowflakes are the ones who issued the ruling.

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I haven't heard "I know you are but what am I?" used as a debate strategy since second grade.

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Now what do they suggest we use?

In their decision they end up saying "pre-existing, non-conforming" or some variation a few dozen times each. It's a mouthful where "grandfather(ed)" summed it up in a single term. We need a new single term that doesn't carry any baggage.

I suggest "privileged".

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Eh?

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While using "legacy" as a verb makes my grammar bone hurt, it gets the point across.

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What did they call "grandfathering" before they called it "grandfathering". What if someone somewhere used the term "grandfathering" before the Civil War, and just didn't document it? Then does that mean the term "grandfathered" gets grandfathered?

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Hope this helps.

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all words are made up, man

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The swastika had thousands of years of documented usage before Adolf Hitler decided to start using it but I really hope you aren't considering making use of that symbol today...

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But how many hate gropus are using "Grandfather Everyone" as their rallying cry?

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where it has a long, positive cultural tradition.

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While I can respect the logic of the Court of Appeals, it would have been be nice if it offered up new language or used a term used elsewhere (e.g.,British Common Law has to have an analog), posing "privileged" poses what I can only assume is an inadvertent comic redux.

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Magoo recommends the word “Magooed”. For example, “the new garage was Magooed in and allowed a zoning variance due to the existence of a prior structure.” Magoo.

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Magoo, you've done it again

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Just sayin'. This ruling was a needle in a haystack . .

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The decision was by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the state's second highest court, not the Supreme Judicial Court. Fixed.

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It's about time.

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Wow, I had no clue about this. I'm always shocked about all the different tid bits of information that has been whitewashed in our history. Thanks for sharing.

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