Constitutional rights of 18-to-20-year-olds
rs at robertsheridan.com
Fri Dec 19 23:27:34 PST 2008
I don't mean to take a serious question lightly, but I think that "the
constitutional rights of 18-to-20 year olds" before the early 1970s
assumes a fact not very much in evidence. What I think the question
fails to express is how much we were capable of ignoring the alleged
rights of people deemed on their face, sometimes quite literally, as
not having any rights that an adult or a white person was required to
consider. Before what we call a constitutional right becomes one, it
is quite common to think the idea ridiculous. Gay rights including
marriage come to mind. There's a reason there was a civil rights
revolution, and a civil war. Consciousness of rights for disfavored
minorities was definitely not raised, by and large, even if a lot of
people might have heard rumblings that some things were wrong, before
these earth-shaking occurrences.
Black people eating and sleeping in the same restaurants and hotels as
whites? And purchasing homes in white neighborhoods? How silly.
Minors having constitutional rights? I mean there's a reason for the
adoption of the 26th Amendment in 1971 and not before: the idea was
laughable. However, what with the by then very unpopular Vietnam war
and the draft and young men being sent overseas to die, the idea
gained traction that if they were old enough to die, they were old
enough to vote on such things as the war in which they were being sent
to die in. That made the question suddenly serious, not laughable.
I'd be astonished (and interested) to find that the courts held a
different view than the general run of the population in this regard.
Even today, the rights of high school students, for example, are more
limited than the general run of the population, and grade schoolers
even less so. To suggest that this situation should change in favor
of more rights for students brings out the wrath of those favoring
academic order, discipline, respect, upholding the authority of
teachers and administrators, and so forth. I suppose the Bong Hits
for Jesus case would be a recent example of showing where the lines
are drawn these days. Or take the flip from Gobitis to Barnette in
the space of a year or two, illustrating that the rights of children
(or their parents in raising them, I'm not sure which was more
important, maybe both) went from unprotected to protected
constitutionally in the early 1940s. In the 1920s, Meyers and Pierce
come to mind. Before that, I don't know, except that child labor laws
were declared unconstitutional during the early Lochner Era
(1905-1937), thus, by negative implication, suggesting that children
had little in the way of legal protection in certain areas, at least.
On Dec 19, 2008, at 10:42 PM, Volokh, Eugene wrote:
> I’m looking for information on how courts and
> commentators treated the constitutional rights of 18-to-20-year-
> olds, back when the age of majority was generally 21, which is to
> say until the early 1970s. If you have any pointers on this, I’d be
> very much obliged. Many thanks,
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