Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection (1868)

This clause means that states must apply the law equally and cannot discriminate against people or groups of people arbitrarily. It does not mean that all people have to be treated the same way—states can require vision tests to receive a driver’s license, for example, but they cannot ban people from driving because of their race.

In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the Supreme Court held that racial segregation did not violate the Equal Protection Clause, but that decision was overturned a half-century later in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Over time, the clause has been interpreted to protect various classes of people from discrimination by government.

Other Supreme Court cases that have applied the Equal Protection Clause include Korematsu v. United States (1944), Loving v. Virginia (1967), and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1977).