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Included in the Fourteenth Amendment are two very important clauses. These clauses are the “equal protection” and “due process of law” clauses. Both of these concepts play an instrumental role in the well being of the common American man. In addition, they both deal with issues regarding the fairness of law. The “due process of law” deals with the government fulfilling its responsibilities in trials, while the “equal protection clause” concerns equality in peoples” lives under the Constitution.
The thought of “due process of law” is first mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment near the beginning when it states: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
This can be explained as a man”s rights to a fair governing. It is one of the oldest constitutional principles and the “due process” refers to the requirement that the actions of government be conducted according to the rule of law. No government can be above the law and the government cannot interfere with the rights of life, liberty, and property except according to established procedures of law. The Fourteenth Amendment also requires state governments to respect due process of law and gives the federal government the power to enforce this requirement.
In America there are two different types of due process of law, “procedural due process of law” and “substantive due process of law”. Procedural due process of law means the government must use fair procedures in fulfilling its responsibilities. It requires that the procedures used by government in making, applying, interpreting, and enforcing law be reasonable and consistent. Substantive due process of law came in later and differed slightly from procedural due process. It made a requirement that the government could not make laws that apply to situations in which the government has no business interfering. It requires that the “substance” or purpose of laws be constitutional. The difference between procedural and substantive is that procedural says nothing about interference in certain cases, while substantive does.
The Fourteenth Amendment continues and later talks about the “equal protection clause”. It states that no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By this provision the amendment gave a new importance to the principle of equality in the Constitution and peoples” lives. The Fourteenth Amendment”s original purpose was to create a society in which all people were treated equally before the law. However, through various interpretations it made it seem that the government was responsible for guaranteeing that all its citizens were equal in the amount of property they possesses, their living standards, education, medical care, and working conditions. It meant that no individual or group was to neither receive special privileges nor be deprived of certain rights under the law.
The principle of a limited government is related to both of the aforementioned clauses in an assortment of different ways. It closely relates to the concept of “due process of law” in that both are in favor of the protection of the natural rights philosophy that states men should not be deprived of the rights of life, liberty, or property. Additionally due process of law and limited government relate to each other in that both say that no government can be above the law. The view of limited government relates to the equal protection of the law by stressing a non-discriminatory government. The equal protection of law established equality before the law, giving the same rights to a poor man, as a rich and powerful man may have. Similarly, limited government pushed for restraints and limits on power, which in turn made it difficult for certain people to become more powerful than others.
The equal protection clause can be found in action in 1952, in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The case was based on the segregation of educational facilities. The NAACP changed their focus from integrating higher educational facilities to integrated grade schools. After the change, the NAACP stepped in on this case and argued that segregated educational facilities were unequal, degrading to black students, and violated the fourteenth amendment’s guarantee for equal protection.
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal and did violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Brown vs. the Board of Education was a victory for the blacks as well as a victory for the power of the equal protection clause when correctly used. With this victory, an expansion of the protections of the Constitution was created, the equal protection clause would now be used again and again to fight the battle against unfair and unequal standards for certain groups.