Skip to main content

Important Standards That Are Applied In Equal Protection Cases

Everybody is treated the same, regardless of their differences

Important Standards That Are Applied In Equal Protection Cases

The 14th amendment of the United States of America clearly states that every individual is entitled to equal protection under the law. This amendment is one of the only ones maintained after the reform made after the abolition of slavery, including the enslaved people within it.

This amendment is found within the country’s constitution to avoid discrimination by any state or jurisdiction. It prevents laws favoring a specific group or a judicial body from applying different sentences for discriminatory reasons.

Moreover, it implies that the state must comply with specific regulations when bringing any lawsuit against an individual or defending itself against discrimination accusations.

These standards must be met to demonstrate that impartial justice not linked to discriminatory acts is applied. Finally, if these standards are not met, the case becomes invalid.

What standards are used for the analysis of equal protection cases?

When reviewing equal protection cases, three possible regulations must be considered when carrying out a review. These standards are intended to rule out any discrimination within the justice provided by the state.

In the following cases, if the plaintiff can win and prove that there is discrimination under the law, the process is considered illegitimate and must be dismissed.

  • Minimum scrutiny test

This type of test is considered one of the bases for determining discrimination by the state. In it, the state acting as a defendant must first counter two possible claims:

  • The law in question used for the case does not possess a legitimate purpose and is used to attack a specific group.
  • The unfounded accusations are linked to an irrational government purpose.

Thus, to win a case under these standards, it must be shown that the government is acting arbitrarily or using legal technicalities to apply the law for no reason.

  • Intermediate scrutiny test

This type of regulation is used to conduct gender-based analysis (male or female). With this type of test, the government tries to demonstrate the use of aggravating factors taking into account the gender of the offender.

This regulation is there because specific laws are intended to protect women and have some aggravating factors over male batterers. For an injured party to prove discrimination in these cases, they must prove that:

  • The state’s objective in indicating the gender of the affected person is not at all relative to the case and only reinforces archaic stereotypes.
  • The law is being used for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was enacted.
  • The government seeks to achieve an objective (such as facilitating the administrative process) and adds more weight to the accusation.

Moreover, the state may indicate that this type of distinction is necessary, indicating that it seeks to protect a specific group and that indicating the biological difference is entirely necessary.

On the other hand, courts tend to be much more sympathetic in cases where biological differences (male, female) are being highlighted and not socially constructed (transsexuals or members with sexual identification different from the biological one).

  • Strict scrutiny test

Finally, this type of test seeks to examine whether a distinction of race, ethnicity, religion or any other classification is being applied. Again, this type of distinction seeks to be used to protect groups that consider such characteristics (a prime example being Native Americans).

For the affected to demonstrate that there is discrimination of this type, it must be shown that no neutral terms (that do not affect any specific race) can be used to validate it.

In the case of such an accusation, the government must fully demonstrate that it inspected different alternatives to the accusation or law and could not find a neutral one to support it.

What other standards are taken into account for equal protection?

Before applying any of the above tests, the state must conduct a primary evaluation to determine which test should be used and which regulations apply.

Among these standards, we can find:

  • The group has suffered from a history of discrimination.
  • The trait accused of discrimination is not related to the person’s ability to contribute to society (linked to special persons, elderly, disabled, or incapable).
  • The trait reinforces prejudice towards a group or categorizes one group as inferior to another.
  • The group does not have political power or government representative or does not influence the legislative agenda in any way.
  • It is a trait shared by the group that is immutable and unchangeable. It is a trait that cannot be controlled and is part of the personal identity (race, ethnicity, nationality).

These last considerations help the state classify the individual concerned and determine whether or not discrimination against them is taking place.

Register to Vote