Court stops using ‘grandfathering’ because of racist origins
BOSTON (AP) — The second highest court in Massachusetts said Monday that will stop using the word “grandfathering” in its decisions because of its origins in laws adopted after the Civil War to prevent Black people from voting.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court made the decision in a case involving a zoning feud. “Grandfathering” is often used to explain why new zoning rules do not apply to existing buildings.
“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,” Associate Justice James R. Milkey wrote, The Boston Globe reported.
The phrase “grandfather clause” has its roots in 19th century laws that created barriers to voting for recently freed slaves, Milkey said. He said literacy tests were put into place for the new voters, but the same requirement did not apply to white men descended from voters registered prior to 1867.
In its decision, in place of “grandfathered,” the court wrote that the law “provides a certain level of protection to all structures that predate applicable zoning restrictions.”