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Vocapedia > USA > U.S. Constitution


Fourteenth Amendment    1868


Rights of citizens / equal protection of the laws



























































































Fourteenth Amendment

Rights of citizens / equal protection of the laws


"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 bea

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."






The Fourteenth Amendment

addresses many aspects of citizenship

and the rights of citizens.


The most commonly used

-- and frequently litigated -- phrase

in the amendment

is "equal protection of the laws",

which figures prominently

in a wide variety of landmark cases,

including Brown v. Board of Education

(racial discrimination),

Roe v. Wade

(reproductive rights),

Bush v. Gor

(election recounts),

Reed v. Reed

(gender discrimination),

and University of California v. Bakke

(racial quotas in education).





The citizenship portion of the 14th Amendment

was tied together with the idea of suffrage for all men.


If Black men were made citizens,

for the most part,

they could also be made voters.


(This didn’t work

as smoothly as some had thought.

It would require

the adoption of the 15th Amendment

two years later, in 1870,

to guarantee that right, as it read:


“The right of citizens

of the United States to vote

shall not be denied or abridged

by the United States or by any State

on account of race, color,

or previous condition of servitude.”)


One of the heroes of the 14th Amendment

as well as the 13th Amendment,

which abolished slavery

 was Representative

Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania.


He badgered Lincoln on abolishing slavery

and he helped to write the 13th Amendment.



he gave the closing remarks

on the debate of the amendment.


As the National Endowment

for the Humanities has noted,

when the House passed the bill

that authorized the 13th Amendment,

Stevens said,


“I will be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus,

‘Here lies one who never rose to any eminence,

and who only courted the low ambition to have it said

that he had striven to ameliorate

the condition of the poor, the lowly,

the downtrodden of every race

and language and color.’ ”


Stevens would also help

write the 14th Amendment,

and in the lead-up to it

he was quite prescient

on “universal enfranchisement,”

offering words then

that we would do well to heed today.


In January of 1868,

Stevens wrote in The New York Times:


So far as I took any position

with regard to Negro suffrage,

it was and is that universal suffrage

is an inalienable right,

and that since the amendments

to the Constitution,

to deprive the Negroes of it

would be a violation of the Constitution

as well as of a natural right.



I deemed the hastening

of the bestowal of the franchise

as very essential to the welfare of the nation,

because without it I believe

that the Government will pass

into the hands of rebels and their friends,

and that such an event

would be disastrous to the whole country.


With universal suffrage,

I believe the true men of the nation

can maintain their position.


Without it,

whether that suffrage be impartial,

or in any way qualified,

I look upon this Republic

as likely to relapse into an oligarchy,

which will be ruled

by coarse copperheadism

and proud conservatism.


Copperheads were Northern Democrats,

mostly in the Midwest,

who opposed the Civil War and emancipation

and wanted to negotiate a compromise

with the South to preserve the Union.


The name comes from the copperhead snake,

a notoriously sneaky serpent.


But the 14th Amendment would go on

to be passed and ratified,

and it signified the birth of Black citizenship.


The day is such an important marker of citizenship that

when the first Black senator, Hiram Revels of Mississippi,

arrived in Washington to be seated in 1870,

his being seated was objected to

by conservative congressmen,

some arguing that he had only been a citizen

since the ratification of the 14th Amendment two years earlier

and thus didn’t meet the citizenship requirements for a senator.


(By the way,

Revels was born in America and fought in the Civil War.)





































story.php?storyId=129279863 - August 18, 2010


story.php?storyId=129201845 - August 14, 2010


story.php?storyId=129201841 - August 14, 2010


story.php?storyId=129007120 - August 5, 2010










When Richard and Mildred Loving

awoke in the middle of the night

a few weeks after their June, 1958 wedding,

it wasn't normal newlywed ardor.


There were policemen with flashlights

in their bedroom.


They'd come to arrest the couple.


"They asked Richard

who was that woman he was sleeping with?


I say, I'm his wife,

and the sheriff said, not here you're not.


And they said, come on, let's go,


Mildred Loving recalled that night

in the HBO documentary The Loving Story.


The Lovings had committed

what Virginia called unlawful cohabitation.


Their marriage was deemed illegal

because Mildred was Black and Native American;

and Richard was white.


Their case went all the way

to the Supreme Court.


And on June 12, 1967, the couple won.




On June 12, 1967,

the U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled

in the Lovings' favor.


The unanimous decision upheld

that distinctions drawn based on race

were not constitutional.


The court's decision made it clear

that Virginia's anti-miscegenation law violated

the Equal Protection Clause

of the 14th Amendment.


The landmark civil rights decision

declared prohibitions

on interracial marriage

unconstitutional in the nation.


Chief Justice Earl Warren

wrote the opinion for the court;

he wrote that marriage is a basic civil right

and to deny this right on a basis of color is

"directly subversive of the principle of equality

at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment"

and seizes all citizens

"liberty without due process of law."










In 1917

the Supreme Court strikes down

a racial zoning law in Louisville, Ky.,

that prohibits nonwhites

from moving into homes

in majority-white areas


Laws like these, which existed

in numerous cities at the time,

are part of a larger,

shameful history

of government-sponsored

racial segregation.


In Buchanan v. Warley,

the court ruled that such ordinances

violate the 14th Amendment

and related statutes

that “entitle a colored man

to acquire property

without state legislation

discriminating against him

solely because of his color.”





245 U.S. 60

Buchanan v. Warley (No. 33)

Argued: April 10, 11, 1916

Decided: November 5, 1917

165 Kentucky, 559, reversed.














Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia


law > USA > U.S. Constitution



law > USA > U.S. Supreme Court,


State Supreme Courts



justice, law, death penalty,

U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court > USA






Related > Anglonautes > History >    USA


Miscegenation laws /

landmark civil rights case > Loving v. Virginia    1967



Historical documents




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