The Equal Protection Act (EPA)popularly known as the Equal Protection Clause is one of the laws enacted through the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution in the year 1868. The main purpose of EPA is to ensure protection and guarantee the rights provided by the United States Bill Of Rights. It succeeded the 13th amendment which made provisions to free slaves. The 14th amendment served as a guarantor of rights for these freed slaves. However, the interpretation of this act has been made differently under different circumstances.
The EPA law states that “no state shall … deny to any person within it’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Throughout American history, the EPA has been extended to cover cases of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, orientation and the like. This act, in essence, is meant to protect the rights of individuals, irrespective of variables such as sex, race, status, etc.
There have been many cases filed under the EPA following its enactment. Among them, Brown v. Board Of Education, Reed v. Reed and Citizens For Equal Protection v. Bruning are some landmark cases.
Brown v. Board Of Education
- This was a landmark EPA case decided in 1954 which declared the segregation of white and black kids on the basis of schools, unconstitutional. It was filed by plaintiff Oliver Brown along with 12 other plaintiffs in the United States Supreme Court. It was ruled that racial segregation through different schools for white and black kids is unconstitutional.
Reed v. Reed
- In 1967, Sally Reed filed a case against her husband under EPA for having gained preference in being named administrator of their deceased son’s estate. The Idaho Probate Court granted preference to males in such cases, and this was challenged by Sally Reed in the Supreme Court.
- This case was a great example of discrimination on the basis of sex. It gained national attention when such discrimination was propagated by the guarantors of the law, itself. The Idaho Probate Court’s decision was then challenged by the Supreme Court. This judgment came as a historical one when the Supreme Court stated that the EPA was a protector of women’s rights.
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the chief appellate lawyers and also an associate of the Women’s Rights Project joined many others to represent Sally Reed in the Supreme Court.
Citizens For Equal Protection v. Bruning
- This was yet another landmark EPA case decided in 2006 in the United States District Court For The District Of Nebraska. It was filed in 2003 by a communion of two LGBT advocacy groups – Nebraska Advocates For Justice And Equality & Citizens For Equal Protection against then District Attorney Gen. Jon Bruning.
- Surprisingly, this suit was ruled against the appellate as the district court declared that the Initiative Measure 416 (prohibiting same-sex marriage and any other form of same-sex union) was not unconstitutional. Hence, the court stated that same-sex union was not protected under the EPA. The case did not reach the United States Supreme Court as the plaintiffs did not make a further appeal.