American citizens recognize that all members of American society have the same natural rights, regardless of race, sex, or other characteristics.

The Founders expressed this principle in the Declaration of Independence, though at the time women lacked many legal protections, slavery was legal, and equal political and civil rights were not yet extended to all.

Abraham Lincoln later echoed the Declaration of Independence in the Gettysburg Address, saying that America is “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Alice Paul said of the women’s suffrage movement, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.expressed his hope for a society more dedicated to equality in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Individuals who advocated the civic value of equality include Richard Henry LeeJohn Jay, William Penn, Frederick Douglass, Angelina Grimke, Alice Paul, and Thurgood Marshall.