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Part of the series on
U.S. Discrimination Law
Standards of Review

Rational basis review
Intermediate scrutiny
Strict scrutiny

Other Legal Theories

Substantive due process
State action doctrine

Defining Moments in Law

The 14th Amendment
Plessy v. Ferguson
Brown v. Board of Education
Loving v. Virginia
U.S. v. Virginia
Romer v. Evans
Lawrence v. Texas

Modalities of Constitutional Law


Textualism is a legal theory that courts should rely on the plain meaning of the words in the Constitution and in other laws. Where the text does not support the interpretation, the interpretation necessarily fails. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia is a prominent textualist. For a recent example of his view, see Zuni v Dept. of Education,[1] where there appeared to be a difference between the intent of a statute and its plain meaning.

A type of "textualism" is "meta-textualism." This method of interpretation suggests that all phrases in the Constitution are related, and should be interpreted as such. An example of a meta-textual interpretation would hold it erroneous that while the enforcement clause of the Thirteenth Amendment is read broadly, the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth is read narrowly, despite their grammatical similarities. Meta-textualism would read the two as necessarily equivalent.


  1. http://laws.findlaw.com/us/000/05-1508.html