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Perfecting the Declaration: The Text and History of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

Perfecting the Declaration tells the story of how the American people, after the Civil War, re-wrote the Constitution to guarantee equality to all persons, bringing the Constitution back in line with the principle of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence. 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.” Discussing the full sweep of our constitutional history – the principle of equality first set out in the Declaration, perfected in the Equal Protection Clause, and further illuminated in later Amendments – as well as a century of Supreme Court precedents, Perfecting demonstrates that the Clause secures equal rights and prohibits invidious discrimination against all persons, including discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. The report concludes by demonstrating that the Constitution’s text and history support marriage equality for gay men and lesbians.