Equal Protection Clause

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The Equal Protection Clause is from the text of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides "nor shall any State [...] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". It mandates that individuals in similar situations be treated equally by the law.[1][2][3]

A primary motivation for this clause was to validate the equality provisions contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which guaranteed that all citizens would have the guaranteed right to equal protection by law. As a whole, the Fourteenth Amendment marked a large shift in American constitutionalism, by applying substantially more constitutional restrictions against the states than had applied before the Civil War.

The meaning of the Equal Protection Clause has been the subject of much debate, and inspired the well-known phrase "Equal Justice Under Law". This clause was the basis for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decision that helped to dismantle racial segregation, and also the basis for many other decisions rejecting discrimination against, and bigotry towards people belonging to various groups.

While the Equal Protection Clause itself applies only to state and local governments, the Supreme Court held in Bolling v. Sharpe (1954) that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment nonetheless imposes various equal protection requirements on the federal government via reverse incorporation.

"One man, one vote"

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In the United States, the "one person, one vote" principle was invoked in a series of cases by the Warren Court in the 1960s, during the height of related civil rights activities.[4][5][6][7][8] Applying the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court majority opinion (5-4) led by Chief Justice Earl Warren in Reynolds v. Sims (1964) ruled that state legislatures, unlike the United States Congress, needed to have representation in both houses that was based on districts containing roughly equal populations, with redistricting as needed after censuses.[9][10] Some had an upper house based on an equal number of representatives to be elected from each county, which gave undue political power to rural counties. Many states had neglected to redistrict for decades during the 20th century, even as population increased in urban, industrialized areas. In addition, the court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) that states must also draw federal congressional districts containing roughly equal represented populations[11] and as such codifying Proportionate representation.



  1. Failinger (2009), "Equal protection of the laws", in Schultz, David Andrew (ed.), The Encyclopedia of American Law, Infobase, pp. 152–53, ISBN 9781438109916, archived from the original on July 24, 2020, The equal protection clause guarantees the right of "similarly situated" people to be treated the same way by the law.
  2. "Fair Treatment by the Government: Equal Protection". GeorgiaLegalAid.org. Carl Vinson Institute of Government at University of Georgia. July 30, 2004. Archived from the original on March 20, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020. The basic intent of equal protection is to make sure that people are treated as equally as possible under our legal system. For example, it is to see that everyone who gets a speeding ticket will face the samEpocedures [sic!]. A further intent is to ensure that all Americans are provided with equal opportunities in education, employment, and other areas. [...] The U.S. Constitution makes a similar provision in the Fourteenth Amendment. It says that no state shall make or enforce any law that will "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law." These provisions require the government to treat persons equally and impartially.
  3. "Equal Protection". Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020. Equal Protection refers to the idea that a governmental body may not deny people equal protection of its governing laws. The governing body state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances.
  4. Richard H. Fallon, Jr. (2013). The Dynamic Constitution. Cambridge University Press, 196.
  5. Douglas J. Smith (2014). On Democracy's Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought "One Person, One Vote" to the United States. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  6. "One person, one vote", in David Andrew Schultz (2010). Encyclopedia of the United States Constitution. Infobase Publishing, 526.
  7. this footnote is named 'Ansolabehere'
  8. "Reynolds v. Sims". Oyez. Retrieved 2019-09-21.
  9. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named governance
  10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named :0
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