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Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Amendment XIV (the Fourteenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution is one of the post-Civil War amendments and includes the due process and equal protection clauses (Section 1). It was adopted on July 28, 1868.



Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Definition of citizen

The first section defines who is a citizen of the United States and establishes that no state can enact laws that abridge certain rights of its citizens or persons within the jurisdiction of the United States. This represented Congress's reversal of that portion of the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision that declared that African Americans were not and could not become citizens of the United States or enjoy any of the privileges and immunities of citizenship.

Congress also passed the Fourteenth Amendment in response to the Black Codes that southern states had passed in the wake of the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. Those laws attempted to return freed slaves to their former condition by, among other things, limiting their ability to leave the plantations on which they had previously been held and by preventing them from suing or testifying in court.

The equal protection clause did, in fact, have this effect in the decades immediately following the Civil War, as the Supreme Court overturned laws barring African-Americans from juries or discriminating against Chinese-Americans in the regulation of laundry businesses. The Supreme Court limited the reach of the Amendment, however, by holding in the Slaughterhouse Cases that the "privileges and immunities" clause did not create any new federal rights, then holding in the Civil Rights Cases that the Amendment did not authorize Congress to outlaw racial discrimination on the part of private individuals or organizations.

The Supreme Court sapped the equal protection clause of most of its original purpose in Plessy v. Ferguson, in which it held that the states could impose segregation so long as they provided "separate but equal" facilities. The Court went even further in Berea College v. Kentucky , holding that the states could force private actors to discriminate by prohibiting an integrated college from admitting both black and white students. By the early twentieth century the equal protection clause had been eclipsed to the point that Justice Holmes dismissed it as "the usual last resort of constitutional arguments."

The Court held to the "separate but equal" doctrine for more than fifty years, despite numerous cases in which the Court itself had found that the segregated facilities provided by the states were almost never equal, until it finally overruled Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education. In the half century since then the Court has extended the reach of the equal protection clause to other historically disadvantaged groups, such as women and aliens, although applying a somewhat less stringent test than it has applied to governmental discrimination on the basis of race.

While the Court has revived the equal protection clause as it applies to individuals who are members of "suspect classifications", it has continued to hold that the clause does not allow the courts to second-guess the wisdom of legislative decisions in the realm of economic regulation, even those that appear to single out particular businesses for favored or disfavored treatment. The Court's current position parallels its repudiation of cases such as Lochner v. New York, which held that state regulation of the hours that bakery employees could work was a taking of their property without due process.

The Lochner case and cases like it were the ironic effect of the Fourteenth Amendment: fifty years after its passage it provided more substantive protection to corporate interests than it did to African-Americans and other members of minority groups. The Court finally overruled these precedents in the 1930s, in the midst of the New Deal, when President Roosevelt threatened to "pack the court" to preserve his programs from being declared unconstitutional by the Court.

Yet while the Supreme Court has emphatically rejected the substantive due process precedents that allowed it to overturn states' economic regulations, in the past forty years it has recognized a number of "fundamental rights" of individuals, such as privacy and parental rights, which the states can regulate only under narrowly defined circumstances. The Court has also greatly expanded the reach of procedural due process, requiring some sort of hearing before the government may terminate civil service employees, expel a student from public school or cut off a welfare recipient's benefits.

Through the doctrine of Incorporation, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has also brought about the application of nearly all of the rights explicitly enumerated in the Bill of Rights to the states. Prior to the adoption of this amendment, the Bill of Rights acted only as a restraint on federal, not state, governments, and a state's relations with its citizens and those of other states was legally restrained only by that state's constitution and laws and those provisions of the United States Constitution that limited the powers of the states. While many states modeled their constitution and laws after the federal government's, those state constitutions did not necessarily include provisions comparable to the Bill of Rights.

The Fourteenth Amendment not only empowered the federal courts to intervene in this area to enforce the guarantee of due process and the equal protection of the laws, but to import the substantive rights of free speech, freedom of religion, protection from unreasonable searches and cruel and unusual punishment and other limitations on governmental power. At the present, the Supreme Court has held that the due process clause incorporates all of the substantive protections of the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments and all of the Fifth Amendment other than the requirement that any criminal prosecution must follow a grand jury indictment, but none of the provisions of the Seventh Amendment relating to civil trials.

Apportioning of representatives

The second section establishes rules for the apportioning of representatives in U.S. Congress to states, essentially making the proportion of that state's representation equal to that state's proportion of the nation's population excluding males under the age of 21, the disenfranchised, and Indians who do not pay taxes. This overrode the provisions of the Constitution that counted slaves as three fifths of a person for purposes of allotting seats in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

Participants in rebellion

The third section prevents the election of any person to the Congress or Electoral College who has engaged in insurrection, rebellion, or treason. A two-thirds vote by Congress can override this limitation, however.

Validity of public debt

The fourth section establishes the validity of any public debts the United States government enters into, with exceptions for debts related to insurrection, rebellion, or claims for the loss or emancipation of any slave. Such debts are declared illegal and void.

Court cases relevant to this Amendment

External links

Last updated: 10-10-2005 09:40:01
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