Boston College Law Review
B.C. L. Rev.
Animus and discrimination are the two legal lenses through which in-equality is typically assessed and understood. Insufficient attention, however, is paid to the role of status in animating inequality, even in landmark cases thought to be equality-promoting. More than an animating force between intractable po-litical conflicts, status also informs the development of equality law in the United States. When courts, advocates, and policymakers affirm, ignore, miss, or con-cede to status hierarchies instead of dismantling them, those groups that perceive a decrease in their status relative to others will only use “equality-promoting” doctrine to rebalance status hierarchy in their favor. Public school integration and same-sex marriage threatened status hierarchies primarily favoring white people in the former, and straight white males in the latter. Thus, both movements pre-sent opportunities to consider how education and marriage work to secure status, examine how the two “successful” equality movements actually preserved and created new opportunities for superordinate groups to maintain superior status, and theorize how law might better account for retrenchment demanded by the status-privileged.