First Advisor

Christopher Shortell

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science and University Honors


Political Science


United States. Constitution. 14th Amendment, Equality before the law -- United States, Judicial review -- United States




Identity is incredibly complex when we recognize the spectrums of race, gender, and sexuality. While these identities have always been complex, it has been only recently that those diverse people are gaining recognition and acceptance within society. Recognition and acceptance is propelled forward when we establish law that is meant to protect diverse identities. The Equal Protection Clause is an example of legislation meant to protect those who have historically been marginalized or even failed to be recognized by the law. When states violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the case may reach the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court will determine if the state law in question is permissible under the Equal Protection Clause through the three-tiered test. The tiers of this test define the levels of scrutiny used by the Court, and are dependent upon who is being discriminated against by the state. The highest level of scrutiny is strict scrutiny; following strict scrutiny is intermediate scrutiny; and lastly there is the rational basis test, the lowest level of scrutiny the Court can apply. The thesis argues that there are an abundance of flaws with this existing model; specifically, the model leaves out a number of diverse groups because the Court views it through a lens that only sees race, gender, and sexuality as binary. Because of this, it fails to protect all citizens equally under the law. By examining past cases of Equal Protection claims, the thesis demonstrates the need for a removal of the three-tiered test if the federal and state governments are to protect all Americans equally.


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