Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary

Equal Protection

The right, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to be treated the same, legally, as others in the same situation. If a law discriminates between one group of people and another, the government must have a rational basis for doing so. A law that discriminates on the basis of a supect classification -- that is, it makes a distinction based on race, gender, or another trait that has historically resulted in discriminatory treatment -- is constitutional only if there is a very compelling reason for the distinction.