Impact of the 14th Amendment

14th Amendment

Agreed to by Congress June 13, 1866; ratified and in force July 9, 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.

HISTORY

Also spelled out as the Fourteenth Amendment or Amendment XIV, the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was specifically intended to overrule Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford (Supreme Court, March 6, 1857) and guarantee American citizenship, civil liberties, due process and equal protection to former slaves and their descendants.

The 14th Amendment was agreed to by the United States Senate June 8, 1866 and by the House of Representatives June 13, 1866. During a controversial ratification process it was rejected by most Southern states, but the amendment received support from the required three-fourths of the states July 9, 1868.

In subsequent years the 14th Amendment, especially the equal protection clause, has been used numerous times by African Americans, women and other groups to advance rights under the law. In a 2005 Supreme Court case, Justice David Souter called it "the most significant structural provision adopted since the original framing [of the constitution]."

The fourteenth was the second of the three constitutional amendments commonly referred to as the Reconstruction Amendments, the other two being the 13th Amendment (1865) and 15th Amendment (1870).