Equal Protection Of The Law Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Equal Protection Of The Law, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Equal Protection Of The Law?

n. the right of all persons to have the same access to the law and courts and to be treated equally by the law and courts, both in procedures and in the substance of the law. It is akin to the right to due process of law, but in particular applies to equal treatment as an element of fundamental fairness. The most famous case on the subject is Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) in which Chief Justice Earl Warren, for a unanimous Supreme Court, ruled that “separate but equal” educational facilities for blacks were inherently unequal and unconstitutional since the segregated school system did not give all students equal rights under the law. It will also apply to other inequalities such as differentials in pay for the same work or unequal taxation. The principle is stated in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: “No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

History and Meaning of Equal Protection Of The Law

The concept of equal protection of the law has its roots in the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which was ratified in 1868. The amendment was primarily introduced to ensure that freed slaves were granted citizenship and equal protection under the law. The amendment reads: "No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Essentially, the amendment requires equal treatment in all legal proceedings and activities.

The 14th Amendment's equal protection requirement has been used to challenge discriminatory laws and practices in various contexts, including voting rights, education, housing, and employment. It has also been used to fight against racial and gender discrimination, as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation and disability.

Examples of Equal Protection Of The Law

  1. A woman sues her employer for paying her substantially less than her male colleagues for performing the same job duties, citing a violation of the equal protection clause.
  2. A group of students sues their school district for providing unequal educational opportunities based on their race, also citing a violation of equal protection.
  3. A state law is challenged as unconstitutional because it requires voters to present a photo ID at the polls, which would disproportionately affect low-income and minority voters, thus violating the equal protection clause.

Legal Terms Similar to Equal Protection Of The Law

  1. Due process - The right to a fair and impartial legal process.
  2. Civil rights - Rights belonging to every person, regardless of their race, gender, or other characteristics.
  3. Discrimination - Unfair or unequal treatment of individuals based on certain characteristics.