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CHAPTER 6

Equal Protection: Ordinary, “Suspect,” and “Quasi-Suspect” Classifications

§6.1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

The Constitution prohibits the state and federal governments from denying people the equal protection of the laws. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Though nothing in the Constitution's text imposes a similar restriction on the federal government, the Court has construed the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause as “contain[ing] an equal protection component prohibiting the United States from invidiously discriminating between individuals or groups.” Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, 239 (1976). Under most circumstances, the protections afforded by these Amendments are coextensive. But see Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong, 426 U.S. 88, 100 (1976) (variable standards in the context of discrimination against aliens). In this chapter, the term Equal Protection Clause will be used to include the equal protection guaranties of both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments unless otherwise indicated.

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