General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 18 (2004)

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Opinion of the Court

any relatively narrow application. We do not commonly understand "race" to refer only to the black race, or "sex" to refer only to the female. But the prohibition of age discrimination is readily read more narrowly than analogous provisions dealing with race and sex. That narrower reading is the more natural one in the textual setting, and it makes perfect sense because of Congress's demonstrated concern with distinctions that hurt older people.


The second objection has more substance than the first, but still not enough. The record of congressional action reports a colloquy on the Senate floor between two of the legislators most active in pushing for the ADEA, Senators Javits and Yarborough. Senator Javits began the exchange by raising a concern mentioned by Senator Dominick, that "the bill might not forbid discrimination between two persons each of whom would be between the ages of 40 and 65." 113 Cong. Rec. 31255 (1967). Senator Javits then gave his own view that, "if two individuals ages 52 and 42 apply for the same job, and the employer selected the man aged 42 solely . . . because he is younger than the man 52, then he will have violated the act," and asked Senator Yarborough for his opinion. Ibid. Senator Yarborough answered that "[t]he law prohibits age being a factor in the decision to hire, as to one age over the other, whichever way [the] decision went." Ibid.

Although in the past we have given weight to Senator Yarborough's views on the construction of the ADEA because he was a sponsor, see, e. g., Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio v. Betts, 492 U. S. 158, 179 (1989), his side of this exchange is not enough to unsettle our reading of the statute. It is not merely that the discussion was prompted by the question mentioned in O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U. S. 308 (1996), the possibility of a 52-year-old suing over a preference for someone

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