This article seeks to clarify the meanings behind contemporary uses of the terms “equality” and “equity.” It also supports the conception, associated at times with equality and at times with equity, of laws and policies that are responsive to individual and structural differences in people’s circumstances.
Lawyers, students, and policy makers work every day with the constitutional language of “equal protection of the laws,” as well as with statutes and regulations forbidding discrimination on the basis of protected traits, such as race and gender. Although these sources do not speak of “equity,” dismissing them would be a big mistake.
Not only are these sources the law of the land: the terms and underlying conceptions of “equal protection” and “antidiscrimination” can be crucial tools for redeeming the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the Reconstruction Amendments—the promise of a nation where each person is secure and enjoys the same freedoms and opportunities as others, a nation that rejects status spelled by birth, race, or other happenstance.
This is a promise worth fortifying, elaborating, and improving, not casting out or conceding away to those who resist continuing struggles in this historic spirit.
Attribution: American Journal of Law and Equality (2021) 1: 167–193.