Saturday, December 09, 2006

Equal Protection Clause

The equal protection clause is part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Some interesting facts about it:
  • It was passed in the "rump" Congress after the Civil War. The "rump" Congress excluded representatives of the Southern states.
  • The Radical Republicans pushed it through Congress.
  • Ratification by Southern states was a condition of their reacceptance into the Union.
  • The framer of the clause, John Bingham, expressly intended for the clause to apply all preceding amendments - some of which had previously applied only at the national level - to the states.
The equal protection clause was therefore a radical concept. People can differ about whether the circumstances surrounding its passage were fair or legitimate. To truly adhere to the original understanding and purpose of the clause, however, a judge should apply it broadly and boldly.

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