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American State Constitutional Equalities

25 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2009 Last revised: 14 Jul 2011

Jeffrey A. Parness

Northern Illinois University - College of Law

Date Written: September 18, 2009


Many American state constitutions contain equality provisions. Some simply promote Equal Protection in ways comparable to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal constitution. Others are worded quite differently, though read in lockstep with federal precedents. Yet others vary both in letter and spirit form federal constitutional equalities. These variations extend at time constitutional equality protections far beyond the federal precedents. Varying American state constitutional equalities are today promoted by phrases and terms like equality, equal protection, nondiscrimination, sameness, and uniformity. They occasionally limit private as well as public actors. And they occasionally limit the roles of legislatures in defining or enforcing constitutional equalities. For those interested in securing greater American state constitutional equalities, whether for sexual orientation, gender or other classes, Article I, Section 17 of the Illinois constitution provides an excellent model, with self-executing rights, limited General Assembly authority, and regulations of private and public discrimination. The approach in Section 17 is far superior to the approaches in Sections 18 and 19 of the Illinois constitution, which also promote equalities, and to the approaches in other American state constitutional equality provisions.

Keywords: constitutional law, equal protection, discrimination, equality, state constitutional law, state constitutions

Suggested Citation

Parness, Jeffrey A., American State Constitutional Equalities (September 18, 2009). Gonzaga Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 773, 2009-2010. Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey A. Parness (Contact Author)

Northern Illinois University - College of Law ( email )

Swen Parson Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115
United States

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