APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds
MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the court.
The legislature of the State of Oklahoma passed an act, approved December 18, 1907 (Rev. Laws, Okla., 1910, §§ 860 et seq.), known as the 'Separate Coach Law.' It provided that 'every railway company . . . doing business in this State, as a common carrier of passengers for hire' should 'provide separate coaches or compartments, for the accommodation of the white and negro races, which separate coaches or cars' should 'be equal in all points of comfort and convenience' (§ 1); that at passenger depots, there should be maintained 'separate waiting rooms,' likewise with equal facilities (§ 2); that the term negro, as used in the act, should include every person of African descent, as defined by the state constitution (§ 3); and that each compartment of a railway coach 'divided by a good and substantial wooden partition, with a door therein, shall be deemed a separate coach' within the meaning of the statute (§ 4).
It was further provided that nothing contained in the act should be construed to prevent railway companies 'from hauling sleeping cars, dining or chair cars attached to their trains to be used exclusively by either white or negro passengers, separately but not jointly' (§ 7).
Other sections prescribed penalties both for carriers, and for passengers, failing to observe the law (§§ 5, 6). The act was to take effect sixty days after its approval (§ 12).
On February 15, 1908, just before the time when the statute, by its terms, was to become effective, five negro
citizens of the State of Oklahoma (four of whom are appellants here) brought this suit in equity against The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company, The St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company, The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company, The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company and The Fort Smith & Western Railroad Company, to restrain these companies from making any distinction in service on account of race. On February 26, 1908, -- after the act had been in operation for a few days -- an amended bill was filed seeking specifically to enjoin compliance with the provisions of the statute for the reasons that it was repugnant (a) to the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution, (b) to the Enabling Act under which the State of Oklahoma was admitted to the Union (act of June 16, 1906, c. 3335, § 3, 34 Stat. 267, 269), and (c) to the Fourteenth Amendment. The railroad companies severally demurred to the amended bill, asserting that it failed to state a case entitling the complainants to relief in equity. The Circuit Court sustained the demurrers and, as the complainants elected to stand upon their bill, final decree dismissing the bill was entered. This decree was affirmed by the Court Circuit of Appeals (186 Fed. Rep. 966), and the present appeal has been brought.
The conclusions of the court below as stated in its opinion were, in substance:
1. That under the Enabling Act, the State of Oklahoma was admitted to the Union 'on an equal footing with the original States' and with respect to the matter in question had authority to enact such laws, not in conflict with the Federal Constitution, as other States could enact; citing, Permoli v. First Municipality, 3 How. 589, 609, Escanaba Company v. Chicago, 107 U.S. 678, 688; Willamette Iron Bridge Co. v. Hatch, 125 U.S. 1; Ward v. Race-Horse, 163 U.S. 504; Bolln v. Nebraska, 176 U.S. 83. See also Coyle v. Oklahoma, 221 U.S. 559, 573.
. That it had been decided by this court, so that the question could no longer be considered an open one, that it was not an infraction of the Fourteenth Amendment for a State to require separate, but equal, ...