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He became known as a progressive reformer and an admirer of Britain's New Liberalism, enacting legislation such as the Moreland Act.
In 1910, President William Howard Taft appointed Hughes as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 1905, he was appointed as counsel to the New York state legislative "Stevens Gas Commission", a committee investigating utility rates.
In the 1916 election, incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson narrowly prevailed over Hughes, partly because Wilson won the support of many progressives. Harding won the 1920 presidential election, Hughes accepted Harding's offer to serve as Secretary of State.He graduated third in his class at the age of 19, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year.He read law and entered Columbia Law School in 1882, where he graduated in 1884 with highest honors. Their youngest child, Elizabeth Hughes Gossett, was one of the first humans injected with insulin, and later served as president of the Supreme Court Historical Society.As the Governor, Hughes produced important reform legislation in three areas: improvement of the machinery and processes of government; extension of the state's regulatory authority over businesses engaged in public services; and expansion of governmental police and welfare functions.To counter political corruption, he secured campaign laws in 19 that limited political contributions by corporations and forced candidates to account for their receipts and expenses, legislation that was quickly copied in fifteen other states.
He pushed the passage of the Moreland Act, which enabled the governor to oversee city and county officials as well as officials in semi-autonomous state bureaucracies. He also managed to have the powers of the state's Public Service Commissions increased and fought strenuously, if not completely successfully, to get their decisions exempted from judicial review.