General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 14 (2004)

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Opinion of the Court

strength of this consensus is enough to rule out any serious claim of ambiguity, and congressional silence after years of judicial interpretation supports adherence to the traditional view.7


Cline and amicus EEOC proffer three rejoinders in favor of their competing view that the prohibition works both ways. First, they say (as does Justice Thomas, post, at 602-605) that the statute's meaning is plain when the word "age" receives its natural and ordinary meaning and the statute is read as a whole giving "age" the same meaning throughout. And even if the text does not plainly mean what they say it means, they argue that the soundness of their version is shown by a colloquy on the floor of the Senate involving Senator Yarborough, a sponsor of the bill that became the ADEA. Finally, they fall back to the position (fortified by Justice Scalia's dissent) that we should defer to the EEOC's reading of the statute. On each point, however, we think the argument falls short of unsettling our view of the natural meaning of the phrase speaking of discrimination, read in light of the statute's manifest purpose.


The first response to our reading is the dictionary argument that "age" means the length of a person's life, with the

Nos. 605 & 985, IBEW, 945 F. Supp. 980, 985 (SD Miss. 1996), which allowed a claim objecting to a benefit given to individuals between 60 and 65 and denied to those outside that range, without discussing Hamilton or any of the other authority holding that the plaintiffs under 60 would lack a cause of action.

7 Congress has not been shy in revising other judicial constructions of the ADEA. See Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio v. Betts, 492 U. S. 158, 167-168 (1989) (observing that the 1978 amendment to the ADEA "changed the specific result" of this Court's earlier case of United Air Lines, Inc. v. McMann, 434 U. S. 192 (1977)); H. R. Rep. No. 101-664, pp. 10-11, 34 (1990) (stating that Congress in 1978 had also disapproved McMann's reasoning, and that with the 1990 amendments it meant to overrule Betts as well).

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