There are few areas of the law as deeply polarizing and emotionally heated as the application of the Constitution’s guarantee to all persons of the equal protection of the laws. What is lost – all too often – in this heated and polarized discussion is the text and history of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause itself, along with the full sweep of our constitutional history: the principle of equality first stated in the Declaration of Independence, perfected in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and further illuminated in the Nineteenth Amendment and other Amendments.
That’s what makes a new study by Constitutional Accountability Center entitled Perfecting the Declaration: The Text and History of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required reading. Perfecting the Declaration, the fourth in CAC’s Text and Narrative Series, tells the story of how the American people redeemed the Constitution from the sin of slavery and rewrote the Constitution to guarantee equality to all persons, bringing the Constitution back in line with the principle of equality laid out in the Declaration. In the Equal Protection Clause, “We the People” perfected the Declaration by writing into the Constitution’s text that all “person[s]” are equal, not just that “all men are created equal.” The story of this constitutional transformation is essential to the Supreme Court’s many landmark rulings honoring the Constitution’s promise of equality for all persons, including Brown v. Board of Education, Reed v. Reed, whose 40th anniversary is being celebrated this week at a star-studded panel in Washington, D.C., and Romer v. Evans. As important, this story is critical to on-going efforts to persuade courts and, ultimately, if necessary, the Supreme Court, to take the next step and strike down state laws that deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry the person of their choice.