A test used to determine whether a law or governmental regulation or action violates the equal protection clause. The rational basis test is used in most circumstances, such as reviewing economic regulations. The test is less intensive than “strict scrutiny” or “intermediate review,” which are used when legislation affects certain types of persons that the Supreme Court has found are due additional protection because they have been discriminated against historically.
For example, laws that affect persons on account of their race, a “suspect class,” are subject to strict scrutiny and must be justified by the government with a compelling reason. Laws affecting women differently receive intermediate scrutiny and also must be justified by the government by exceedingly persuasive justification.