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U.S. Constitution - 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides equal protection under the law. It makes former slaves U.S. citizens and also provides due process and equal protection for them.

Even today, this amendment is extremely important in cases which decide constitutional issues in the U.S. It extends equal protection and due process under the law to U.S. citizens throughout the country.

If, for example, a law is passed in any particular state which adversely impacts a particular class of people, the 14th amendment allows the harmed individuals to ask the Supreme Court to review the law. That is how a case like Brown v Board of Education—involving segregated schools in several states—made its way to the Supreme Court. 

This image depicts the Congressional Resolution which led to passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Click on the image for a much-better view.

This is the Amendment's text:

Amendment XIV

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.

The 14th Amendment was certified on July 28, 1868. 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Nov 21, 2017


Media Credits

This image depicts the Congressional Resolution which led to passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Online via the U.S. National Archives. Public Domain. Click on the image for a much-better view.

 

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