Unit 3 - Lesson 19

How has the Equal Protection Clause
of the 14th Amendment changed the
“establishes equality before the law, and it gives, to the humblest, the poorest, the most
despised . . . The same rights and the same protection before the law as it gives to the most
powerful, the most wealthy, or those most haughty.”
Senator Jacob Howard
This is a constitutional guarantee of fair treatment for all persons,
regardless of sex, race, national origin, religion or political views
This is rooted in the Declaration of Independence’s line that “all men
are created equal”
2 early cases illustrate this
Strauder v. West Virginia (1880) – The conviction of an African American by an all
white jury (as per W.V. law) was unconstitutional because it violated his 14th
Amendment right to equal protection of the law
 Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886) – Ruled a San Francisco law discriminating against
Chinese laundry businesses was unconstitutional. It applied the equal protection
clause to citizens and aliens alike
Every Person is entitled to “EQUALITY OF
Everyone has the right to try to achieve their goals (pursuit of happiness)
 Laws cannot unfairly disadvantage anyone in his/her opportunity to seek a
variety of social goods (education, employment, housing, and political
It does not mean “EQUALITY OF CONDITION,” the
concept that everyone is entitled to the same outcomes of
What are the differences between equality of
condition and equal protection of the laws?
Does inequality of condition undermine the
ideal of equality of rights? Explain your
At the end of RECONSTRUTION, the Southern states adopted “Jim Crow”
laws designed to limit the rights and freedoms of African Americans
Plessey v. Ferguson established the policy of “SEPARATE BUT EQUAL”
+ “if blacks interpret the “separate but equal doctrine as a badge of inferiority, it was solely
because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it”
- “our Constitution is color-blind . . . In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the
law . . . The judgment this day rendered will prove to be quite as pernicious as the Dred
Scot case.”
Plessey v. Ferguson created state-sponsored segregation that lasted 60
years. It required racial separation
NAACP (1909) fought for years to use the judicial system to
end discrimination by challenging laws and appealing to the
conscience of the people
Mob violence
* Lynching
* Crushing discrimination
 Focused on education as the best way to end discrimination
 Thurgood Marshall led the NAACP in winning case after case challenging the
“equalness” of higher education (law, medicine, other)
 Brown v. Board of Education brought before the Supreme Court the issue of
equal protection of the law and education
 NAACP was able to prove severe and damaging effects of segregated schools
 Supreme Court voted 9-0 to reverse “Separate but Equal”
 This decision would prove VERY HARD to enforce
Some classifications in the law are deemed OK
ie – 0-15 cannot drive while 16-? can
Others are not. The Supreme Court uses 3 levels of analysis to decide if
laws that create classifications violate equal protection
Strict Scrutiny
Laws that deny or dilute the right to vote, impede interstate travel, or appear to restrict
access to the courts get strict scrutiny
Must be able to give extremely strong reason (compelling state interest)
Ie - Japanese Internment during World War II
Intermediate Scrutiny
Laws based on gender and illegitimacy are subject to intermediate scrutiny
Must be able to prove laws are “substantially related to an important gov’t purpose
Rostker v. Goldberg (1981) excluding women from the military draft based on that
women are barred from combat
Rational Scrutiny
Laws based on wealth, disability and age must be based on “rationality”
The person challenging a law must show a lack of rationality
In Stanton v. Stanton (1975) the Supreme Court overturned a law in Utah that required
divorced fathers to support their sons until age 21, but only until 18 for their daughters.
The SC overturned the rationality that men married later so needed support longer
The 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause applies only to
the states.
The 5th Amendment contains an equal protection clause that
applies to the federal government. (Hirabayashi v. US -1943)
Both require the government to treat people fairly. Since then,
people can challenge their government when they believe
they were deprived of equal protection of the law
Affirmative Action
Should laws give preference to certain groups that historically be
denied equal opportunities
“reverse discrimination”
Gender based laws (is intermediate scrutiny
“Discrete and Insular Minorities”
Mentally handicapped, children of illegal aliens, gays & lesbians
Should they be treated differently as a group because of prejudice
against them
What was the “separate but equal” doctrine?
How did the Supreme Court justify the
doctrine in “separate but equal?”
What arguments did the Court use in Brown v.
Board of Education to abandon the “separate but
equal” doctrine it had endorsed in Plessy v.
How has the equal protection clause been
interpreted since 1954?

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