viii Introduction This volume examines many historic documents that involve the equal protection clause or equal protection principles. For example, the text exam- ines perhaps the most famous of all U.S. Supreme Court decisions—Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In that historic decision, the court over- ruled the aforementioned “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and ruled that segregated public schools violated the equal pro- tection clause. The equal protection clause has played a vital role in marriage cases. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court used it to invalidate bans on interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia (1967) and, much more recently, bans on gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). One of the more controversial issues in mod- ern American society is affirmative action—a term used to describe policies that try to help histori- cally disadvantaged groups. In Bakke v. Regents of the University of California (1978), the court invali- dated a university medical school’s policy of set- ting aside a certain number of seats for minority students. The court determined that violated the equal-protection rights of a qualified white appli- cant. The court proclaimed that all racial classifica- tions, whether benign or harmful, were subject to the same exacting review known as strict scrutiny. In other words, all racial classifications are inher- ently suspect. Not all entries in this book are court cases. For example, in the affirmative action arena, President Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered a speech enti- tled “To Fulfill These Rights.” In that graduation speech at Howard University in December 1965, he famously wrote: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” Equal protection clause cases can be difficult. Some of the cases involve challenges to vari- ous aspects of the criminal justice system. One case decoded in this volume—McCleskey v. Kemp (1987)—involved a serious argument that Geor- gia’s death penalty system was so racially biased that it violated equal protection. Suffice it to say that the equal protection clause is a vital part of the Constitution. It breathes life into the equality principles undergirding the Dec- laration of Independence. In the words of constitu- tional scholars John Nowak and Ronald Rotunda, it has become “the single most important concept in the Constitution for the protection of individ- ual rights.”
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