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Equal Protection




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Equal protection is a constitutional law doctrine that stems from the clause in the 14th amendment that prohibits states from denying people “equal protection” under the law. Though the 14th amendment, by its terms, applies only to the states, the equal protection clause has been applied to the federal government as well, through the “due process” clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The equal protection clause prohibits the government from discriminating between classes without adequate justification. Discrimination on bases that the courts consider “non-suspect” such as age, wealth and income, are typically allowed as long as they are rationally related to legitimate government interests. Other categories of discrimination, such as those based on gender, race or national origin, are considered “quasi-suspect” or “suspect” classifications and are subjected to much higher levels of scrutiny by courts. In such cases, the burden of proof is on the government to show important justifications for discriminatory rules to be allowed to stand.