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Fourteenth Amendment Protections

One of the more controversial laws in the history of the United States is the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States. This amendment prohibits government from denying equal protection of the laws or due process of law to the citizens of the United States. Defining “equal protection” and “due process,” however, has perplexed the U. S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, and state courts since the ratification of the amendment in 1868. Though ironically the Equal Protection Clause was the basis for such historic doctrines as “separate-but-equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson, it has also served as the basic constitutional protection against racial discrimination by government entities in modern civil rights jurisprudence.

Laws designed to give preferences to whites to the detriment of members of the minority races are clearly unconstitutional. More difficult questions are raised with respect to affirmative action programs designed to give minorities opportunities they may lack due to a history of discrimination. Since the late 1980’s, the Supreme Court has struck down several of these programs as unconstitutional. Similar problems have been raised with respect to efforts to gerrymander voting districts in order to ensure that minority (or nonminority) political candidates have a better chance to win seats. Unless such efforts have been designed to remedy specific instances of discrimination, they are most likely in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

Inside Fourteenth Amendment Protections