Fourteenth Amendment: The Equal Protection Clause

A key component of the Fourteenth Amendment’s first section is the Equal Protection Clause. No State must “refuse to any individual within its authority, the equal protection of the laws,” as stated in the 1868 article. There must be equitable treatment for persons in similar conditions. The major purpose for including this phrase was to confirm the equality provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which promised that all citizens would have the right to equal protection under the law. Overall, the Fourteenth Amendment signaled a significant shift in American constitutionalism by imposing far more constitutional constraints on the states than had been in place before the Civil War.

Fourteenth amendment section 1 of the constitution of the United States: “Individuals born or naturalized in the United States of America are considered citizens of both the nation and the state in which they live. Neither a state nor a local government may enact laws that restrict the rights or liberties of U.S. citizens. No state may also deny any individual within its jurisdiction the right to life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

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Basis of Decision by the Courts
Courts have employed three separate standards to determine whether specific legislation or conduct violates the Equal Protection Clause. Because these criteria are difficult to explain precisely or apply mechanically, the circumstances of the case may be just as significant in practice as the specific test used by the court. The classification determines the test that a court employs that the legislation or action creates and the affected rights. The three tests are as follows:

Test of rationality: The reasonable foundation test is the Supreme Court’s criteria in most decisions. It is essentially a test of sanity. Courts inquire into two issues:

Was there a legitimate rationale (or “rational foundation”) for the state to adopt the law? and

Is there a distinction between the two classes or groups of individuals that justifies treating them differently?

The legislation is only valid if both questions are answered affirmatively.

Test of Scrutiny: The Supreme Court’s second standard, known as the rigorous scrutiny test, is the most likely to invalidate a statute. To classify persons grounded on their race or nation of origin is common law. It is also used for regulations that impact basic liberties like voting or having children. The classifications that cause severe examination are referred to as “suspect classifications.” The courts use this test to:

Determine whether the state has a compelling interest in adopting the legislation? And

Is legal classification truly required to achieve that goal?

Courts will thoroughly scrutinize the state’s objective in adopting the legislation or implementing a policy and whether choosing a certain classification is the only way to achieve that aim.

Test of Intermediate Scrutiny: In 1976, the Supreme Court introduced third equal protection criteria, utilized most frequently in instances challenging gender classifications. Intermediate scrutiny is stricter than the logical basis test, but it’s also more forgiving than severe scrutiny, as the name suggests. It states that gender classifications are only lawful if they:

Serve essential government purposes and

are closely and substantially connected to achieving those aims.

The legislation will fail this test if it could be crafted to accomplish the same result without mentioning sex. Similarly, if the legislation serves no “important” goals, it is unconstitutional.

Relation between Due-Process and Equal Protection Clause
Due Process “No one shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” the due process guarantee states. Federal offenses and prosecutions must adhere to due process requirements to be protected by the Fifth Amendment. As per the Fourteenth Amendment, state criminal trials are also subject to the federal due process requirement. The majority of state constitutions include a provision similar to this.

Substantive due process safeguards people’s basic rights, such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy. The procedural due process ensures that no one is prosecuted or convicted without their knowledge or consent. If substantive and procedural due processes are followed, people cannot be arbitrarily deprived of their lives (through the death sentence), liberties (by incarceration), or property (via forfeiture).

Equal Protection Clause

Concerning equal protection of the law, the Fourteenth Amendment states that no state may deny “any person within its jurisdiction” in part. The equal protection provision applies to governmental bodies such as states and municipal governments. Most state constitutions include a similar provision.


The equal protection provision prohibits the state government from implementing discriminatory criminal legislation that is irrational and unjustifiable. According to the Fifth Amendment’s due process requirement, if the discrimination is extreme enough, it violates the due process of law.

The equal protection provision prohibits state governments from implementing discriminatory criminal legislation. The Fifth Amendment’s due process provision extends the restriction to the federal government if the discrimination is unconstitutional.

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