“[I]ssues of federalism and state sovereignty are inextricably tied to the quest for equality. First and foremost, these issues are historically linked to the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments because these amendments were the most important by-product of the war between the seceding Southern states and the Union. The amendments were the undisputed progeny of the South’s defeat. As clearly stated by the Supreme Court over 100 years ago, their ‘one pervading purpose [was to guarantee]…the freedom of the slave race…and the protection of the newly-made freedman and citizen from the oppressions of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him.’ Therefore, a second, related and implicit purpose of the amendments was to limit state and local government’s power to create or sanction disadvantages to persons on the basis of their membership in a group too powerless to prevent its own oppression. Hence, the independent authority of state and local governmental entities is both analytically and practically related to the scope of constitutionally guaranteed equality although the scope of such limits is not readily apparent from the face of the document.’ Moreover, both the perception and reality of state and federal conflict over the amendments’ scope have been guaranteed by the amendments’ verbal openendedness and the inconclusive and often conflicting evidence of the framers’ intent.’ When the guarantees of equality are expansively interpreted by the Court or legislated by Congress, the scope of state power and autonomy necessarily decreases. If, however, the Court narrowly construes either the amendments themselves and/or the scope of congressional power to enforce them, then federal support for available equality is lessened.”

Source: Linda S. Greene. Twenty Years Of Civil Rights: How Firm A Foundation? 37 Rutgers L. Rev. 707,730-1. 1984-1985.


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