The Substantive Role of Congress Under the Equal Protection Clause

Andrew Hyman

The Institute for Intermediate Study

February 7, 2015

42 S.U.L. Rev. 79 (2014)

The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment deliberately wrote that no state can deny the equal protection “of the laws” rather than “of its laws.” This may seem nowadays like a small difference, but it was important in that era, because it meant that the word “laws” includes both state and federal laws. Therefore Congress has a substantive role under this clause that applies against the states. This meaning undercuts U.S. Supreme Court cases like City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997) which have largely shut Congress out. The emphasis here is on the original meaning of the Equal Protection Clause, and especially on the public understanding of its text when it was enacted. Had the Equal Protection Clause said “of its laws” rather than “of the laws” then the clause would have been directed only to application or enforcement of laws, rather than their content.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 64

Keywords: Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, Equal Protection

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K39

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Date posted: July 24, 2014 ; Last revised: November 24, 2016

Suggested Citation

Hyman, Andrew, The Substantive Role of Congress Under the Equal Protection Clause (February 7, 2015). 42 S.U.L. Rev. 79 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2468984 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2468984

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Andrew Hyman (Contact Author)
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