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Ninth Amendment

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noun
an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing that the rights enumerated in the Constitution would not be construed as denying or jeopardizing other rights of the people.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

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What is the Ninth Amendment?

The Ninth Amendment is an amendment to the US Constitution that says that the act of listing certain rights in the Constitution doesn’t mean other, unlisted rights are denied.

The Constitution of the United States is the document that serves as the  fundamental law of the country. An amendment is a change to something. An amendment to the Constitution is any text added to the original document since its ratification in 1788. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in American history.

The Ninth Amendment reads:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The most common interpretation of the Ninth Amendment is that it says just because a right is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t mean that American citizens don’t have that right. However, the amendment doesn’t say what those other unmentioned rights are.

Because of the vague wording, the Ninth Amendment has been seen as a puzzle, even by Supreme Court justices, who are tasked with enforcing it. For example, Justice Robert H. Jackson referred to the Ninth Amendment as a “mystery.”

As a result, the Ninth Amendment has not been involved in a lot of Supreme Court cases. Its most common interpretation has been motivated by the case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). In that case, Justice Arthur Goldberg stated in his concurring opinion that the fundamental right to privacy was protected by the Ninth Amendment even though it is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. However, in his dissenting opinion, Justice Potter Stewart accused Goldberg of “turn[ing] somersaults with history” by citing the Ninth Amendment in the case.

The meaning of the Ninth Amendment continues to be debated today. It has never been central to any Supreme Court decision and is unlikely to be until the Court makes a definite ruling on its exact meaning.

Why is Ninth Amendment important?

The Ninth Amendment is one of 10 amendments included in the Bill of Rights, a set of 10 amendments added to the Constitution almost immediately after that document was put into law. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by the required three-fourths of the state legislatures and added to the Constitution.

Historically, the purpose behind the inclusion of the Ninth Amendment has been much clearer than its meaning. When drafting the Constitution, supporters of a strong federal government, known as Federalists, believed a Bill of Rights was unnecessary. They believed that any rights or powers not mentioned in the Constitution obviously belonged to the states and their citizens. They argued that listing specific rights that citizens had implied that any unmentioned rights were surrendered and could be ignored by the government.

The Anti-Federalists, who wanted a limited national government, strongly disagreed. They demanded a Bill of Rights that would set in law certain rights that the government could never infringe on. The Ninth Amendment, then, acted as a sort of compromise between the two groups: The Anti-Federalists got their Bill of Rights while guaranteeing citizens (and the Federalists) that the rights mentioned in the Constitution were not the only ones they had.

Did you know … ?

The Bill of Rights, including the Ninth Amendment, was proposed by future president James Madison. Madison’s original version of the Ninth Amendment was longer, but it was shortened by the Congressional committee, which eventually submitted the amendments to be added in the Bill of Rights.

What are real-life examples of Ninth Amendment?

This picture shows a recreation of the Bill of Rights, the document in which the Ninth Amendment is found. The actual Bill of Rights is kept in the National Archives.

https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/facsimile-of-the-bill-of-rights-the-first-ten-amendments-to-news-photo/515298960?adppopup=true

To many, the most notable thing about the Ninth Amendment is how vague it is.

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

According to the most common interpretation, the Ninth Amendment says that citizens have additional protected rights that aren’t specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

How to use Ninth Amendment in a sentence

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