equal protection


equal protection

noun

Definition of EQUAL PROTECTION

:  a guarantee under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution that a state must treat an individual or class of individuals the same as it treats other individuals or classes in like circumstances

First Known Use of EQUAL PROTECTION

1953

equal protection

noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

In U.S. law, the constitutional guarantee that no person or group will be denied such protection under the law as is enjoyed by similar persons or groups—i.e., persons similarly situated must be treated similarly. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits states from denying any person “the equal protection of the laws.” Until the mid-20th century the requirement was applied minimally—except in some cases of racial discrimination, such as the use of literacy tests and grandfather clauses to restrict the voting rights of blacks. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court of the United States upheld “separate but equal” facilities for the races, thus sanctioning racial segregation. Beginning in the 1960s, the court under Chief Justice Earl Warren dramatically expanded the concept, applying it to cases involving welfare benefits, exclusionary zoning, municipal services, and school financing. During the tenure of Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, the court continued to add to the types of cases that might be adjudicated under equal protection, including cases involving sexual discrimination, the status and rights of aliens, abortion rights, and access to the courts.

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