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What are some examples of famous test cases?

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As of 2015, examples of famous test cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court include Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Bowers v. Hardwick and United States v. Windsor, according to Stephen Wermiel writing for SCOTUSblog. Lawyers argue a test case in the attempt to challenge and overturn an existing law. Courts at all levels hear test cases, but those which go to the Supreme Court often have the widest impact.

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Plessy v. Ferguson was brought before the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of "separate but equal" facilities based on race, notes SCOTUSblog. This test case ultimately failed when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation laws were constitutional. Brown v. Board of Education was a test case that addressed the same issue, and this time the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal facilities violated the concept of "equal protection of the laws" inherent in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Another failed test case is Bowers v. Hardwick, in which lawyers attempted to challenge the validity of gay rights laws in Atlanta, says SCOTUSblog. The Supreme Court ruled that gay adults did not have the right to engage in consensual sex.

United States v. Windsor is a recent test case that struck down provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act because it violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, explains Oyez.org.

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