Grandfather-clause meaning

A provision in a statute that exempts an activity or item from new regulations that would otherwise prevent engagement in that activity or use of that item.
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A clause in some southern state constitutions that exempted descendants of persons allowed to vote prior to the Civil War from subsequent voting restrictions, meaning that such restrictions disfranchised many African Americans while not applying to many whites.
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A former law in some Southern states waiving electoral literacy requirements for those whose forebears voted before the Civil War, thus keeping the franchise for illiterate whites.
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In some legislation forbidding or regulating a certain activity, a clause which exempts those already engaged in it before the legislation was passed.
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A provision that allows a practice or procedure to continue, even though it is now prohibited. For example, if new energy legislation is passed that mandates power plants meet certain emissions standards, existing plants may be excused from these standards by means of a grandfather clause.
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A legislative provision stating that anyone who has previously enjoyed a particular status may continue to do so, despite a change in the applicable law or rules denying that status to anyone newly applying for it.
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A clause or section, especially in a law, granting exceptions for people or organisations who were affected by previous conditions.

Many building codes include a grandfather clause exempting older buildings until some amount of remodeling occurs.

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Origin of grandfather-clause

  • From late 19th-century legislation and constitutional amendments passed by a number of U.S. Southern states, which created new literacy and property restrictions on voting, but exempted those whose grandfathers had the right to vote before the Civil War. The intent and effect of such rules was to prevent poor and illiterate African American former slaves and their descendants from voting, but without denying poor and illiterate whites the right to vote.
    From Wiktionary