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Equal Protection of the Law Key Terms rational basis test, suspect classification, fundamental right, discrimination, Jim Crow laws, separate but equal doctrine, civil rights movement Find Out • What is the constitutional meaning of “equal protection”? • How has the Court applied the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause to the issue of discrimination?
Equal Protection of the Law Understanding Concepts Constitutional Interpretations Why do Supreme Court decisions in discrimination cases rest largely on the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments? Section Objective Explain the concept of “equal protection” and the tests by which the Supreme Court determines discrimination.
In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce court-ordered desegregation of Central High School. He took this action even though he did not believe the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education could effectively end segregation. As he told an adviser, “I am convinced that the Supreme Court decision set back progress in the South at least fifteen years. ”
I. Meaning of Equal Protection (pages 406– 407) A. Both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment require that all people are entitled to equal rights and equal protection of the law. B. The Supreme Court has developed guidelines for deciding when state laws may violate the equal protection clause. C. According to the rational basis test, the Court will uphold state laws that distinguish among different groups of people if the state shows good reason for those classifications.
I. Meaning of Equal Protection (pages 406– 407) D. Classifications in state laws based on race or national origin are a suspect classification; the state must show some compelling public interest to justify them. E. State laws that violate fundamental rights —the right to vote and First Amendment rights—are unconstitutional.
I. Meaning of Equal Protection (pages 406– 407) What guidelines has the Supreme Court drawn up for considering when a state law or action might violate the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment? See rational basis test, suspect classification, and fundamental rights text pages 406– 407.
II. Proving Intent to Discriminate (pages 407– 408) A. Discriminatory laws classify people solely because of their race, gender, ethnic group, age, physical disability, or religion. B. To prove a state or local government guilty of discrimination, one must prove the state’s intent to discriminate.
II. Proving Intent to Discriminate (pages 407– 408) In what ways has discrimination been lessened in this country and in what ways is it still a serious problem? Answers will vary. See Court discrimination cases on text page 408.
III. The Struggle for Equal Rights (pages 408– 410) A. For nearly a century after the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, the courts upheld discrimination and segregation against African Americans. B. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court used the “separate but equal” doctrine to justify segregation in the United States. C. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Court overruled the “separate but equal” doctrine and touched off a long struggle to desegregate public schools.
III. The Struggle for Equal Rights (pages 408– 410) D. Civil rights workers peacefully broke laws supporting racial segregation; protesters who were arrested and convicted then appealed, challenging the constitutionality of these laws in the courts. E. Influenced by the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. , Congress passed major civil rights legislation to ensure voting rights and equal job opportunities such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
III. The Struggle for Equal Rights (pages 408– 410)
III. The Struggle for Equal Rights (pages 408– 410) Compare the results of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). The Plessy case was used to justify segregation, Brown marked the beginning of desegregation.
Checking for Understanding 1. Main Idea Use the graphic organizer below to analyze why the Supreme Court overturned the separate but equal doctrine and what effects followed that decision. Cause: separate facilities are inherently unequal Effect: school districts redrew boundaries, reassigned pupils, and bussed students to desegregate; courts heard cases to desegregate parks, prisons, libraries
Checking for Understanding Match the term with the correct definition. ___ rational basis F test ___ suspect D classification ___ fundamental A right ___ discrimination C ___ Jim Crow laws B ___ civil rights E movement A. a basic right of the American system or one that is indispensable in a just system B. laws requiring racial segregation in such places as schools, buses, and hotels C. unfair treatment of individuals based solely on their race, gender, ethnic group, age, physical disability, or religion D. made on the basis of race or national origin that is subject to strict judicial scrutiny E. the efforts to end segregation F. used by a Court to determine whether a state law is reasonably related to an acceptable goal of the government
Checking for Understanding 3. Identify racial discrimination, segregation. Racial discrimination is treating members of a race differently simply because of race. Segregation is the separation of people from the larger social group.
Checking for Understanding 4. List three guidelines or tests the Supreme Court uses in its judgment of cases involving equal protection under the law. It uses the rational basis test, suspect classifications, and fundamental rights.
Critical Thinking 5. Checking Consistency Was Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka consistent with Justice Harlan’s dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson? Explain your answer. Possible answer: Yes, both Warren and Harlan wrote that equal protection of the laws meant that racial segregation was unconstitutional.
Constitutional Interpretations Find information about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972, Education Amendment of 1972, Voting Rights Act of 1975, and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Prepare an informational brochure that describes these acts.