Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The fourteenth amendment's prohibition that "no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws has long been held to require not only that each person be afforded a "fair" administration of state statutory commands, but also that the laws themselves be "equal."' This requirement of equal laws, however, has not been interpreted to mean that statutes must apply uniformly to all persons; rather the courts have held that legislatures may fashion laws that affect separate classes of persons unequally, as long as the classifi- cations involved are reasonable. While this judicial standard of reasonableness recognizes that differences in fact may properly be reflected by differences in law, it requires similar treatment for those who are similarly situated with respect to the purpose of the legislative enactment. Since classifications calculated to advance only constitutionally unacceptable objectives are not "reasonable," the traditional judicial test for determining whether state legislative action' violates the equal protection clause is whether the action that treats some persons differently from others bears a reasonable relation to a permissible state purpose.