Breedlove v. Suttles
|Breedlove v. Suttles|
|Argued November 16–17, 1937
Decided December 6, 1937
|Full case name||BREEDLOVE v. SUTTLES, TAX COLLECTOR.|
|Citations||302 U.S. 377 (more)|
|Majority||Butler, joined by a unanimous court|
|U.S. Const. amend. XIV, U.S. Const. amend. XIX|
|Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966)|
Georgia had a poll tax until 1945, at the time of this case the tax was a dollar a year. Women who chose not to vote, the blind, and other individuals under the age of 21 or over the age of 60 were exempt.
Nolan Breedlove, a white male, 28 years of age, declined to pay the tax, and was not allowed to register to vote. He filed a lawsuit challenging the Georgia law under the Fourteenth (both the Equal Protection Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause) and the Nineteenth Amendments. T. Earl Suttles was named defendant in the case in his official capacity as tax collector of Fulton County, Georgia.
Opinion of the Court
Associate Justice Pierce Butler delivered the opinion of the court, which unanimously upheld the Georgia law.
With respect to the differential treatment of men and women under the law, the court held that differences between women and men allowed for special consideration to be given to women:
The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the State reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.
With respect to the age discrimination claim, the court held that the upper age limit to the tax was similar to exemptions by age given for military or jury service. And with respect to the Nineteenth Amendment, which states that "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", the court dismissed the notion that the purpose of the tax was "to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex", and denied the claim as a result.
This decision remained precedent until 1966, when the Supreme Court reversed it in a 6-3 decision in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections. Two years earlier, the 24th Amendment had been ratified, abolishing the use of the poll tax (or any other tax) as a precondition for voting in federal elections.
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