Equality rights are potentially the most broadly encompassing among fundamental rights. This is because all laws classify. Either a person treated differently may claim an entitlement to being treated the same, or a person treated the same as others may claim that he or she is entitled to different treatment as an equal. Equality rights may be conceived of or protected very differently, depending on whether they are imagined narrowly or broadly, used to protect individuals or groups, or construed as outlawing certain types of discrimination or mandating equal apportionment of benefits and burdens throughout the polity. These issues will be explored in this course. Specifically, we will focus on the contrast between formal and substantive equality. Who is to be deemed equal to whom? One widely held conception of constitutional equality concentrates on attacking particular inequalities through deployment of the antidiscrimination principle. We will cover discrimination based on race, sex or gender, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. We will then address the controversies raised by affirmative action and conclude with the special issues introduced by group-equality claims advanced by certain racial, national, ethnic, and linguistic minorities.
The aim of the course is to foster understanding of general concepts and theories and to critically examine their useful application in the actual cases that we will discuss. Emphasis throughout will bear on the uses and pitfalls of comparative analysis regarding equality issues.
Assessment is based on a final exam.