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Through the 1940's, the Court had routinely taken the view in non-race-related cases that, '[u]nlike the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifth contains no equal protection clause and it provides no guaranty against discriminatory legislation by Congress.' Detroit Bank v. United States, 317 U. S. 329, 337 (1943); see also, e. g., Helvering v. Lerner Stores Corp., 314 U. S. 463, 468 (1941); LaBelle Iron Works v. United States, 256 U. S. 377, 392 (1921) ('Reference is made to cases decided under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ... ; but clearly they are not in point. The Fifth Amendment has no equal protection clause'). When the Court first faced a Fifth Amendment equal protection challenge to a federal racial classification, it adopted a similar approach, with most unfortunate results. In Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U. S. 81 (1943), the Court considered a curfew applicable only to persons of Japanese ancestry. The Court observed-correctly-that '[d]istinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality,' and that 'racial discriminations are in most circumstances irrelevant and therefore prohibited.' Id., at ...

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