Equal Protection Terms
Get down with the lingo.
Alexander V. Holmes County Board Of EducationIn this 1969 case, the United States Supreme Court rejected a request from the Justice and Heath, Education, and Welfare Departments that 33 Mississippi school districts be allowed to delay submission of their desegregation plans. In the majority opinion, Justice Hugo Black wrote that "'all deliberate speed' has turned out to be only a soft euphemism for delay." He therefore stated that "there is no longer the slightest excuse, reason, or justification for further postponement of the time when every public school system in the United States will be a unitary one, receiving and teaching students without discrimination on the basis of their race or color."5
Bowers V. HardwickIn this 1986 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Georgia's anti-sodomy laws did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. In a concurring opinion written by Warren Burger, the Justice noted that "condemnation of [homosexual activity] is firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian moral and ethical standards." He cited the eighteenth-century legal scholar, William Blackstone, in support. "Blackstone described 'the infamous crime against nature' as an offense of 'deeper malignity' than rape, a heinous act 'the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature,' and 'a crime not fit to be named.'6
Bradwell V. IllinoisIn this 1873 case, the United States Supreme Court upheld an Illinois law denying women the right to practice law because "the civil law, as well as nature itself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman."7
Brown V. Board Of Education, Topeka, KansasIn this 1954 case, the United States Supreme Court reversed the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and ordered the integration of America's schools with "all deliberate speed." Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the doctrine of separate but equal had no place in education as "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Drawing upon psychological studies as well as legal principles, Warren argued that separating black children "from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone." Warren held that the obligation of the Court to redress this inequity was all the greater because the detrimental impact of segregation was "greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group."8
City Of Richmond V. J.A. Croson CompanyIn this 1989 case, the United States Supreme Court struck down a municipal program that set aside 30% of all public works contracts for minority businesses. As in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education, the Court found inadequate proof of specific, local discrimination to warrant the use of racial classifications. It insisted that affirmative action programs employing racial classifications were permissible, but only when constructed as a remedy for proven and specific discrimination in the past.
Craig V. BorenIn this 1976 case, the United States Supreme Court held that an Oklahoma statute, which set different legal drinking ages for men and women, violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling set an "intermediate" standard for judicial scrutiny of laws incorporating gender classifications. Justice William J. Brennan, in the majority opinion, stated that "classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives."9
Equal Protection ClauseThis is part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ratified in 1868. It states that "no state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." While proposed after the Civil War to protect the recently freed slaves, the use of the phrase "any person" within the clause has been interpreted to guarantee a certain degree of protection to all persons.
Fullilove V. KlutznickIn this 1980 case, the United States Supreme Court upheld a federal law requiring that ten percent of all public works contracts be awarded to minority owned businesses.
Goodridge V. Department Of Public HealthIn this 2003 case, the Massachusetts State Supreme Court ruled that state statutes barring same-sex marriage were in violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the state constitution. The court granted the state legislature 180 days to bring state marriage statutes into line with this ruling. Members of the state senate subsequently attempted to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, but they failed.
Gratz V. Bollinger And Grutter V. BollingerIn these 2003 cases involving the University of Michigan's undergraduate and law school admissions policies, respectively, the United States Supreme Court served notice that affirmative action programs employing racial classifications would be subject to close scrutiny by the Court. If racial classifications were applied too heavily, as was the case with Michigan's undergraduate admissions policies, according to the Court, they would be struck down. If race was used more carefully along with many other factors in order to achieve diversity, as was the case with the law school admissions program, the Court would accept it. But, added Justice Sandra O'Connor, the Court's support for even these more carefully structured programs was limited. Within a generation, she suggested, the use of these sorts of racial classifications would not be acceptable to the Court.
Green V. School Board Of New Kent CountyIn this 1968 case, the United States Supreme Court struck down the "freedom of choice" school integration plan of this Virginia district. Noting that the freedom to choose could easily result in the perpetuation of traditional attendance patterns, the Court held that district integration plans must promise to achieve the actual objective of integration. School integration could not be left to chance, the Court said, and districts must "come forward with a plan that promises realistically to work, and promises realistically to work now."10
Hoyt V. FloridaIn this 1961 case, the United States Supreme Court upheld a Florida law that allowed women to opt out of jury service because "despite the enlightened emancipation of women . . . woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life."11
In this 1973 case, the United States Supreme Court held that evidence of discriminatory action in one part of the district justified a conclusion of district-wide discriminatory practice warranting district-wide judicial intervention. Moreover, the Court argued that the burden lies with the district to prove otherwise.
Lawrence V. TexasIn this 2003 case, the United States Supreme Court struck down the state's "Homosexual Conduct" law. The majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy relied primarily upon the rational basis test—that is, the Court found "no legitimate state interest" in this law so directly impacting one classification of people. But portions of the opinion that referenced a more fundamental right to privacy and marriage suggested to some that the ruling opened the door to future judicial support for gay marriage. After noting the "constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education," Kennedy added, "persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexuals do."12
Lindsley V. Natural Carbonic Gas CompanyIn this 1911 case involving New York state's regulatory powers over a privately-owned gas company, the United States Supreme Court established a still-used test for assessing the constitutionality of state laws that employ classifications—that is, laws that treat different people or entities differently. The "Lindsley test" states that if the classification has a "reasonable basis" and is not "purely arbitrary," and "if any state of facts reasonably can be conceived that would sustain it," the use of a classification does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition, parties challenging the fairness of such a law bear the burden of proving that it "does not rest upon any reasonable basis, but is essentially arbitrary."13
Loving V. VirginiaIn this 1967 case, the United States Supreme Court held that states cannot ban interracial marriage since "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."14
In this 1967 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Virginia's ban on interracial marriage violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.