Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

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Page 1 of Amendment XIV in the National Archives
Page 2 of the amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) to the United States Constitution was one of the amendments enacted after the Civil War. This amendment was originally intended to provide more rights to African Americans, but, over time, it has been interpreted to grant a number of rights to people living in the United States.

The amendment provides a broad definition of citizenship, overruling Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which had excluded slaves and their descendants from possessing Constitutional rights. The amendment requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdictions and was used in the mid-20th century to dismantle racial segregation in the United States, as in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Its Due Process Clause has been used to apply most of the Bill of Rights to the states. This clause has also been used to create: (1) substantive due process rights, such as parental and marriage rights; and (2) procedural due process rights requiring that certain steps, such as a hearing, be followed before a person's property interest can be taken away. The amendment also includes a number of clauses dealing with former slaves and Confederate states, but these clauses are either little-used or have been supplanted by subsequent changes in the law.


[edit] Text

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.[1]

[edit] Citizenship and Civil rights

[edit] Background

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment formally defines citizenship and protects people's civil and political rights from infringement by any state. This represented the Congress' reversal of that portion of the Dred Scott decision which ruled that blacks were not and could not become citizens of the United States or enjoy any of the privileges and immunities of citizenship.[2] The Civil Rights Act of 1866 had already granted U.S. citizenship to all people born in the United States; the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment added this principle into the Constitution to keep the Supreme Court from ruling the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to be unconstitutional for want of Congressional authority to pass such a law or a future Congress from altering it by a bare majority vote.

This section was also in response to the Black Codes which southern states had passed in the wake of the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States.[3] Those laws attempted to return freed slaves to something like their former condition by, among other things, restricting their movement and by preventing them from suing or testifying in court.

Section 1 also includes a formal definition of citizenship. During the original debate over the amendment, Senator Jacob M. Howard of Michigan—the author of the citizenship clause—described the clause as excluding not only "Indians", but also “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.”[4] Howard also stated the word "jurisdiction" meant the United States possessed a “full and complete jurisdiction” over the person described in the amendment.[5] Such meaning precluded citizenship to any person who was beholden, in even the slightest respect, to any sovereignty other than a U.S. state or the federal government.[5][6]

Finally, this section was in response to violence against African Americans within the southern states. A Joint Committee on Reconstruction found that only a Constitutional amendment could protect the rights and safety of African Americans within those states.[7]

[edit] Citizenship Clause

In Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94 (1884), the clause's meaning was tested regarding whether it meant that anyone born in the United States would be a citizen regardless of the parents' nationality. In that case, the Supreme Court held that the children of Native Americans were not citizens, despite the fact that they were born in the United States.

The meaning was tested again in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), regarding children of non-citizen Chinese immigrants born in United States. The court ruled that the children were U.S. citizens.[8]

The distinction between "legal" and "illegal" immigrants was not clear at the time of the decision of Wong Kim Ark.[9] Neither in that decision nor in any subsequent case has the Supreme Court explicitly ruled on whether children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents are entitled to birthright citizenship via the amendment,[10] although that has generally been assumed to be the case.[11] In some cases, the Court has implicitly assumed, or suggested in dicta, that such children are entitled to birthright citizenship: these include INS v. Rios-Pineda, 471 U.S. 444 (1985)[12] and Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).[13] Nevertheless, some claim the Congress possesses the power to exclude such children from US citizenship by legislation.[10]

The Constitution does not explicitly provide any procedure for loss of United States citizenship. Loss of U.S. citizenship is possible only under the following circumstances:

  • Fraud in the naturalization process. Technically, this is not loss of citizenship but rather a voiding of the purported naturalization and a declaration that the immigrant never was a U.S. citizen.
  • Voluntary relinquishment of citizenship. This may be accomplished either through renunciation procedures specially established by the State Department or through other actions which demonstrate an intent to give up U.S. citizenship.

For a long time, voluntary acquisition or exercise of a foreign citizenship was considered sufficient cause for revocation of U.S. citizenship.[14] This concept was enshrined in a series of treaties between the United States and other countries (the Bancroft Treaties). However, the Supreme Court repudiated this concept in Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), as well as Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252 (1980), holding that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment barred the Congress from revoking citizenship.

[edit] Due Process Clause

Beginning in the 1880s, the Court interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause as providing substantive protection to private contracts and thus prohibiting a range of social and economic regulation. The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment protected "freedom of contract" or the right of employees and employers to bargain for wages without great interference from the state. Thus, the Court struck down a law decreeing maximum hours for workers in a bakery in Lochner v. New York (1905) and struck down a minimum wage law in Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923). The Court did uphold some economic regulation, however, including state prohibition laws (Mugler v. Kansas), laws declaring maximum hours for mine workers (Holden v. Hardy (1898)), laws declaring maximum hours for female workers (Muller v. Oregon (1908)), President Wilson's intervention in a railroad strike (Wilson v. New (1917)), as well as federal laws regulating narcotics (United States v. Doremus (1919)).

The Court overruled Lochner, Adkins and other precedents protecting "liberty of contract" in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937), decided in the midst of the New Deal and in the shadow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's threats to "pack the court" following a series of decisions holding other New Deal legislation unconstitutional. In the past forty years it has recognized a number of "fundamental rights" of individuals, such as privacy and some 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.[15][16]

[edit] Equal Protection Clause

In the decades following the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court overturned laws barring blacks from juries (Strauder v. West Virginia (1880)) or discriminating against Chinese-Americans in the regulation of laundry businesses (Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)), as violations of the Equal Protection Clause. However, in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court held that the states could impose segregation so long as they provided equivalent facilities—the genesis of the "separate but equal" doctrine. The Court went even further in restricting the Equal Protection Clause in Berea College v. Kentucky (1908), 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 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. dismissed it as "the usual last resort of constitutional arguments."[17]

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 Brown v. Board of Education (1954) reached the Court. Brown met with a campaign of resistance from white Southerners, and for decades the federal courts attempted to enforce Brown's mandate against continual attempts at circumvention.[18] This resulted in the controversial desegregation busing decrees handed down by federal courts in many parts of the nation, including major Northern cities such as Detroit (Milliken v. Bradley (1974)) and Boston. In Hernandez v. Texas,[19] the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment protects those beyond the racial classes of white or "Negro," and extends to other racial and nationalistic groups, such as the Mexican-American in this case. In the half century since Brown, the Court has extended the reach of the Equal Protection Clause to other historically disadvantaged groups, such as women and illegitimate children, although it has applied a somewhat less stringent test than it has applied to governmental discrimination on the basis of race (United States v. Virginia (1996); Levy v. Louisiana (1968)).[20]

Though the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment did not believe it would expand voting rights[21] (leading to the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment), the Supreme Court, since Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), has also interpreted the Equal Protection Clause as requiring the states to apportion their congressional districts and state legislative seats on a "one-person, one-vote" basis. The Court has also struck down districting plans in which race was a major consideration. In Shaw v. Reno (1993), the Court prohibited a North Carolina plan aimed at creating majority-black districts to balance historic underrepresentation in the state's Congressional delegations. In League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry (2006), the Court ruled that Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting plan intentionally diluted the votes of Latinos and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause. In both of those cases, however, the Court refused to interfere with partisan gerrymandering as opposed to racial or ethnic gerrymandering, seeing it as within the valid scope of state authority.

[edit] Incorporation

Prior to the adoption of this amendment, the Bill of Rights had been held by the Supreme Court to not apply to the states.[22] While many states modeled their constitutions and laws after the United States Constitution and federal laws, those state constitutions did not necessarily include provisions comparable to the Bill of Rights. According to some commentators, the framers and early supporters of the Fourteenth Amendment believed that it would ensure that the states would be required to recognize the individual rights the federal government was already required to respect in the Bill of Rights and in other constitutional provisions; all of these rights were likely understood to fall within the "privileges or immunities" safeguarded by the Amendment.[23] However, the Supreme Court limited the reach of the Amendment by holding in the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) that the Privileges or Immunities Clause was limited to "privileges or immunities" granted to citizens by the federal government in virtue of national citizenship. The Court further held in the Civil Rights Cases (1883) that the Amendment was limited to "state action" and thus did not authorize the Congress to outlaw racial discrimination on the part of private individuals or organizations. Neither of these decisions has been overturned and in fact have been specifically reaffirmed several times.[24]

However, by the latter half of the twentieth century, nearly all of the rights in the Bill of Rights had been applied to the states, under what is known as the incorporation doctrine. As a result, the Fourteenth Amendment not only empowered the federal courts to intervene in this area to enforce the guarantee of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, but also 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.[25] 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.[25]

[edit] Apportionment of Representatives

Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment establishes rules for the apportioning of Representatives in the Congress to states, essentially counting all residents for apportionment and reducing apportionment if a state wrongfully denies a person's right to vote. This section overrode the provisions of Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of allotting seats in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

However, the provision calling for proportional decreases in representation in the House of Representatives for states that denied men 21 and older the right to vote was never enforced, despite the fact that Southern states prevented many blacks from voting before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.[26] Some have argued that Section 2 was implicitly repealed by the Fifteenth Amendment,[27] but it should be noted that the Supreme Court has acknowledged the provisions of Section 2 in modern times. For example, in Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 (1974) the Court invoked Section 2 to justify the disenfranchisement of felons by the states. In his dissent, Justice Marshall explained the history of the Section 2 in relation to the Post-Civil War Reconstruction era:

The historical purpose for section 2 itself is, however, relatively clear and, in my view, dispositive of this case. The Republicans who controlled the 39th Congress were concerned that the additional congressional representation of the Southern States which would result from the abolition of slavery might weaken their own political dominance. There were two alternatives available—either to limit southern representation, which was unacceptable on a long-term basis, or to insure that southern Negroes, sympathetic to the Republican cause, would be enfranchised; but an explicit grant of suffrage to Negroes was thought politically unpalatable at the time. Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment was the resultant compromise. It put Southern States to a choice—enfranchise Negro voters or lose congressional representation. [...] Section 2 provides a special remedy—reduced representation—to cure a particular form of electoral abuse—the disenfranchisement of Negroes.[28]

[edit] Participants in rebellion

Section 3 prevents the election or appointment to any federal or State office of any person who had held any of certain offices and then engaged in insurrection, rebellion or treason. However, a two-thirds vote by each House of the Congress can override this limitation. In 1975, Robert E. Lee's citizenship was restored by a joint Congressional resolution, retroactive to June 13, 1865.[29] In 1978, two-thirds of both Houses of Congress voted to posthumously remove the service ban from Jefferson Davis.[30]

[edit] Validity of public debt

Section 4 confirmed that neither the United States nor any state would pay damages for the loss of slaves or debts that had been incurred by the Confederacy. For example, several English and French banks had loaned money to the South during the war.[31]

[edit] Power of enforcement

The last section, Section 5, was construed broadly by the Warren Court in Katzenbach v. Morgan (1966), but the Rehnquist Court tended to construe it narrowly, as in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) and Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett (2001). Also see Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs (2003) and Tennessee v. Lane (2004).

[edit] Proposal and ratification

The Congress proposed the Fourteenth Amendment on June 13, 1866 and on July 9, 1868, three-fourths of the states (28 of 37) had ratified the Amendment:[32]

  1. Connecticut (June 25, 1866)
  2. New Hampshire (July 6, 1866)
  3. Tennessee (July 19, 1866)
  4. New Jersey (September 11, 1866)
  5. Oregon (September 19, 1866)
  6. Vermont (October 30, 1866)
  7. Ohio (January 4, 1867)*
  8. New York (January 10, 1867)
  9. Kansas (January 11, 1867)
  10. Illinois (January 15, 1867)
  11. West Virginia (January 16, 1867)
  12. Michigan (January 16, 1867)
  13. Minnesota (January 16, 1867)
  14. Maine (January 19, 1867)
  15. Nevada (January 22, 1867)
  16. Indiana (January 23, 1867)
  17. Missouri (January 25, 1867)
  18. Rhode Island (February 7, 1867)
  19. Wisconsin (February 7, 1867)
  20. Pennsylvania (February 12, 1867)
  21. Massachusetts (March 20, 1867)
  22. Nebraska (June 15, 1867)
  23. Iowa (March 16, 1868)
  24. Arkansas (April 6, 1868)
  25. Florida (June 9, 1868)
  26. North Carolina (July 4, 1868, after having rejected it on December 14, 1866)
  27. Louisiana (July 9, 1868, after having rejected it on February 6, 1867)
  28. South Carolina (July 9, 1868, after having rejected it on December 20, 1866)

*Ohio passed a resolution that purported to withdraw its ratification on January 15, 1868. The New Jersey legislature also tried to rescind its ratification on February 20, 1868. The New Jersey governor had vetoed his state's withdrawal on March 5, and the legislature overrode the veto on March 24. Accordingly, on July 20, 1868, Secretary of State William H. Seward certified that the amendment had become part of the Constitution if the rescissions were ineffective. The Congress responded on the following day, declaring that the amendment was part of the Constitution and ordering Seward to promulgate the amendment.

Meanwhile, two additional states had ratified the amendment:

  1. Alabama (July 13, 1868, the date the ratification was "approved" by the governor)
  2. Georgia (July 21, 1868, after having rejected it on November 9, 1866)

Thus, on July 28, Seward was able to certify unconditionally that the Amendment was part of the Constitution without having to endorse the Congress's assertion that the withdrawals were ineffective.

There were additional ratifications and rescissions; by 2003, the Amendment had been ratified by every state in the Union as of 1868:[33]

  1. Oregon (withdrew October 15, 1868)
  2. Virginia (October 8, 1869, after having rejected it on January 9, 1867)
  3. Mississippi (January 17, 1870)
  4. Texas (February 18, 1870, after having rejected it on October 27, 1866)
  5. Delaware (February 12, 1901, after having rejected it on February 7, 1867)
  6. Maryland (1959)
  7. California (1959)
  8. Oregon (1973)
  9. Kentucky (1976, after having rejected it on January 8, 1867)
  10. New Jersey (2003, after having rescinded on February 20, 1868)
  11. Ohio (2003, after having rescinded on January 15, 1868)

[edit] Supreme Court cases

[edit] Citizenship

[edit] Privileges or immunities

[edit] Procedural due process/Incorporation

[edit] Substantive due process

[edit] Equal protection

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. Pages 30-33 of the document (pages 8 to 11 of the PDF).
  2. ^ Tsesis, Alexander, The Inalienable Core of Citizenship: From Dred Scott to the Rehnquist Court. Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 39, 2008
  3. ^ Duhaime, Lloyd. "Legal Definition of Black Code". Retrieved on 2009-03-25. 
  4. ^ Congressional Globe, 1st Session, 39th Congress, pt. 4, p. 2890.
  5. ^ a b Congressional Globe, 1st Session, 39th Congress, pt. 4, p. 2895.
  6. ^ Congressional Globe, 1st Session, 39th Congress, pt. 4, p. 2893. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lyman Trumbull, participating in the debate, stated the following: "What do we mean by 'subject to the jurisdiction of the United States'? Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means." In a similar vein, Reverdy Johnson said in the same debate: "If there are to be citizens of the United States entitled everywhere to the character of citizens of the United States, there should be some certain definition of what citizenship is, what has created the character of citizen as between himself and the United States, and the amendment says citizenship may depend upon birth, and I know of no better way to give rise to citizenship than the fact of birth within the territory of the United States, born of parents who at the time were subject to the authority of the United States."
  7. ^ Finkelman, Paul, John Bingham and the Background to the Fourteenth Amendment. Akron Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 671, 2003
  8. ^ Klusmeyer, Douglas B.; Alexander, Thomas (2000). From Migrants to Citizens: Membership in a Changing World. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment. pp. 124. ISBN 0870031597. 
  9. ^ Ancheta, Angelo N. (1998). Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. pp. 103. ISBN 0813524644. 
  10. ^ a b The Heritage Foundation (2005). The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation. pp. 385–386. ISBN 159698001X. 
  11. ^ Erler, Edward J.; West, Thomas G.; Marini, John A. (2007). The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration: Principles and Challenges in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 67. ISBN 074255855X. 
  12. ^ In INS v. Rios-Pineda the Supreme Court opinion referred to a child born to deportable aliens as "a citizen of this country"
  13. ^ In Plyler v. Doe the court stated in dicta that illegal immigrants are "within the jurisdiction" of the states in which they reside and added in a footnote that "no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment 'jurisdiction' can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful."
  14. ^ For example, see Perez v. Brownell, 356 U.S. 44 (1958), overruled by Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967)
  15. ^ White, Bradford (2008). Procedural Due Process in Plain English. National Trust for Historic Preservation. ISBN 0891335730. 
  16. ^ See also Mathews v. Eldridge (1976).
  17. ^ Last paragraph in Opinion of the Court in Buck v. Bell (1927)
  18. ^ Patterson, James (2002). Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Pivotal Moments in American History). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195156323. 
  19. ^ 347 U.S. 475 (1954)
  20. ^ Gerstmann, Evan (1999). The Constitutional Underclass: Gays, Lesbians, and the Failure of Class-Based Equal Protection. University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226288609. 
  21. ^ Meese, III, Edwin; Heritage Foundation (2005). The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing. pp. 400. ISBN 159698001X. 
  22. ^ Barron v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833)
  23. ^ Amar, Akhil Reed (1992). "The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment". Yale Law Journal 101 (6): 1193–1284. doi:10.2307/796923. 
  24. ^ e.g., United States v. Morrison (2000)
  25. ^ a b Levy, Leonard (1970). Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights: The Incorporation Theory (American Constitutional and Legal History Series). Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306700298. 
  26. ^ For more on Section 2 go to
  27. ^ Chin, Gabriel J. (2004). "Reconstruction, Felon Disenfranchisement, and the Right to Vote: Did the Fifteenth Amendment Repeal Section 2 of the Fourteenth?". Georgetown Law Journal 92: 259. doi:10.139/ssrn.10.139/ssrn.433580 (inactive 2009-04-04). 
  28. ^ Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24, 74 (1974)
  29. ^ Pieces of History: General Robert E. Lee's Parole and Citizenship
  30. ^ 10/17/1978 - Pres Carter signs bill restoring Jefferson Davis citizenship
  31. ^ For more on Section 4 go to
  32. ^ Mount, Steve (January 2007). "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments". Retrieved on February 24 2007. 
  33. ^ Chin, Gabriel J.; Abraham, Anjali (2008). "Beyond the Supermajority: Post-Adoption Ratification of the Equality Amendments". Arizona Law Review 50: 25. 

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