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The Equal Protection Clause does not prevent the government from discriminating in...

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monkeyhead | Student, College Freshman | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted March 10, 2010 at 2:37 PM via web

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The Equal Protection Clause does not prevent the government from discriminating in all cases.


What are the various Constitutional Classifications and the safeguards in place that the Supreme Court uses to determine the Constitutionality of such classifications. How are these used in conjunction with the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in protecting individual rights?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 10, 2010 at 2:43 PM (Answer #1)

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All laws discriminate.  Laws against murder treat murderers differently than other types of people.  All laws classify people like that.  It's just that some classifications are legal, according to the Court, and some aren't.

Most classifications (like murderers) get standard scrutiny and are always upheld.  But other classifications (race, national origin, religion) get strict scrutiny.  Laws that discriminate on those bases must be very closely tailored to accomplishing a compelling state interest.  In other words, you have to have a really good reason to discriminate and there had better be no other way to do it.

Gender has typically gotten a level of scrutiny in between strict and standard.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted March 11, 2010 at 2:57 AM (Answer #2)

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You should also be aware that the Fifth Amendment applies to the Federal government, while the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the states. Additionally, it is important to understand the term "strict scrutiny" is so strong that there is likely to be no compelling state or federal interest that would allow a government to act exclusively on the basis of race. 

A bit of history that is important to understand is that the Fourteenth Amendment had to be passed because there was nothing in the Constitution to prohibit states from discriminating against African-Americans, and after the Civil War, the Southern states proceeded to discriminate enthusiastically against them.  Had not the Fourteenth Amendment been passed, any state could do so to this day. 

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sj83 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted March 21, 2013 at 1:10 AM (Answer #3)

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You should also be aware that the Fifth Amendment applies to the Federal government, while the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the states. Additionally, it is important to understand the term "strict scrutiny" is so strong that there is likely to be no compelling state or federal interest that would allow a government to act exclusively on the basis of race. 

A bit of history that is important to understand is that the Fourteenth Amendment had to be passed because there was nothing in the Constitution to prohibit states from discriminating against African-Americans, and after the Civil War, the Southern states proceeded to discriminate enthusiastically against them.  Had not the Fourteenth Amendment been passed, any state could do so to this day. 

You identified Strict Scrutiny as a classification standard. What other classification standards are identifiable and how are these used in conjunction with the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in protecting individual rights?

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