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Statue of Equality, Paris. Allegory of equality

Equality before the law, also known as equality under the law, equality in the eyes of the law, or legal equality, is the principle under which all people are subject to the same laws of justice (due process).[1] Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness, and justice. There is an old saying that 'All are equal before the law.'. The author Anatole France said in 1894, "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread."[2] The belief in equality before the law is called legal egalitarianism.

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law."[1]

According to the United Nations, this principle is particularly important to the minorities and to the poor.[1]

Thus, the law and the judges must treat everyone equally before the law regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination, or bias.

Equality before the law is one of the basic principles of liberalism.[3][4]


In his famous funeral oration of 431 BC, the Athenian leader Pericles discussed this concept. This may be the first known instance.

"If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way"[5]

Classical liberalism[edit]

Classical liberalism calls for equality before the law, not for equality of outcome.[3] Classical liberalism opposes pursuing group rights at the expense of individual rights.[4]


Feminists call for equality before the law regardless of gender.[6]

Still in 1988 the later supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote: "Generalizations about the way women or men are ... cannot guide me reliably in making decisions about particular individuals".[7] In an ACLU's s Women's Rights Project in the 1970s Ginsburg challenged the laws that gave health service benefits to wives of servicemen but not to husbands of servicewomen and prohibited women from certain businesses including running a bar alone.[6]

However, some radical feminists have opposed equality before the law, because they think that it maintains the weak position of the weak.[8]


The phrase "Equality before the law" is the motto of the State of Nebraska and appears on its state seal.

Parricide law[edit]

Article 200 of the Criminal Code of Japan, the penalty regarding parricide, was declared unconstitutional for violating the equality under the law by the Supreme Court of Japan in 1973, as a result of the trial of the Tochigi patricide case.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 7., description of the UN declaration article 7, the United Nations
  2. ^ (France, The Red Lily, Chapter VII).
  3. ^ a b Chandran Kukathas, "Ethical Pluralism from a Classical Liberal Perspective," in The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World, ed. Richard Madsen and Tracy B. Strong, Ethikon Series in Comparative Ethics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 61 (ISBN 0-691-09993-6).
  4. ^ a b Mark Evans, ed., Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Liberalism: Evidence and Experience (London: Routledge, 2001), 55 (ISBN 1-57958-339-3).
  5. ^ Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Written 431 B.C.E, Translated by Richard Crawley (1874), retrieved via Project Gutenberg.
  6. ^ a b Feminist Jurisprudence: Equal Rights or Neo-Paternalism?, Michael Weiss and Cathy Young, Policy Analysis No. 256, Cato Institute, June 19, 1996, pages 1-2
  7. ^ Jeff Rosen, "The Book of Ruth," New Republic, August 2, 1993, p. 19.
  8. ^ Martha Chamallas, "Feminist Constructions of Objectivity: Multiple Perspectives in Sexual and Racial Harassment Litigation," Texas Journal of Women and the Law 1 (1992): 95, 131, 125.
  9. ^ Dean, Meryll (2002). Japanese legal system. Routledge via Google Books. p. 535

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_before_the_law — Please support Wikipedia.
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226 news items

Jakarta Post
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:22:30 -0700

Among the proponents of the bill is the Democratic Party, whose chairman President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has always claimed to encourage equality before the law in the fight against corruption. In fairness, he has fulfilled that pledge, as he has ...
Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:26:15 -0700

The word "equality" is woven into the fabric of the nation. Despite the clause in the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's continual efforts to preserve it, most people assume we are born with different endowments, have different temperaments ...

Yahoo News UK

Yahoo News UK
Fri, 18 Jul 2014 04:26:15 -0700

... we have seen that the government's changes to the criminal justice system have been rooted in the panacea of cutting costs, with little regard to preserving the integrity and the fundamental principles of equality before the law and access to ...
The Atlantic
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 04:55:00 -0700

It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal ...
ComputerworldUK (blog)
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 02:11:15 -0700

The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context. The plenary session of the European Parliament at which some of these comments were made included a rather lack-lustre speech by De Gucht on TTIP, which was ...


Wed, 16 Jul 2014 23:33:45 -0700

There is also the fact that Greek politicians have absolutely no idea about the concepts of rule of law, order, equality before the law and meritocracy. And so we have come to a dead end and keep hitting our heads against the same brick wall, believing ...

Family Law Newswatch

Family Law Newswatch
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 03:30:00 -0700

... policy arenas (such as welfare benefits, for example) the state can legitimately restrict assistance to residents of the UK. However, the court held that equality before the law is not a welfare benefit, but a fundamental cornerstone of our system ...

Hillingdon Times

Family Law Week
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 02:00:00 -0700

In R (on the application of the Public Law Project) v The Secretary of State for Justice [2014] EWHC 2365 (Admin) the Divisional Court has confirmed that Government proposals to introduce a "residence test" for civil legal aid are unlawful. The thrust ...

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