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Equal Protection Under the Constitution?

April 11, 2009

There have been several news articles and editorials lately discussing “sex offender residency restrictions”. Often they discuss the practicality of 1000 ft vs 2500 ft. barrier lines, or the possibility of making bus stops, parks or other public places (such as beaches or water parks) off-limits to anyone with a sex offense on their record. These discussions miss the main over-riding point in this topic of discussion; The Constitution!

What other group of citizens in this nation’s history has it been “okay” to banish from large areas of our cities and neighborhoods?

Perhaps we should ban repeat drunk drivers from living within 2000 feet of any establishment which provides alcohol. Or shall we make it illegal for any wife beater from living near a woman? Let us banish any convicted drug offender from living near a pharmacy or hospital where drugs are kept. And prohibiting anyone convicted of animal abuse from living near a residence with a household pet is a good start, too.

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV. In other words, the laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances. Generally, the question of whether the equal protection clause has been violated arises when a state grants a particular class of individuals the right to engage in an activity yet denies other individuals the same right.

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