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.
The text of the 14th Amendment reads as follows:
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.
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The Fourteenth Amendment is rivaled only by parts of the Bill of Rights in its importance to modern constitutional law. The Incorporation Doctrine which causes significant portions of the Bill of Rights to apply to the states derives from the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of due process (at least from a formal legal perspective).
The equal protection analysis has transformed state and local government (both Baker v. Carr and Bush v. Gore the most significant political cases in recent history were based upon it). It has also been the guiding principal behind debates over Affirmative Action, Gender Discrimination, Racial Discrimination and other Civil Rights.
Several serious attempts have been made to incorporate distinctions based on wealth and income and social class into the equal protection analysis, but thusfar, these efforts have failed.
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 section contains the due process and equal protection clauses and has had a notable impact on federal, state and local law in the United States, including the selective prosecution defense.
Prior to the adoption of this amendment, the United States Bill of Rights acted only as a restraint on federal, not state, governments. Until its passage, a state's control over its citizens was legally restrained only by that state's constitution and laws. Many states modeled their constitution and laws after the federal government of the United States, but state constitutions did not necessarily entail provisions like the Bill of Rights.
With the adoption of this amendment and this section in particular, southern states were legally obligated to recognize certain rights of freed slaves. In response, many states drew up Jim Crow and similar laws to perpetuate racial discrimination in the south. The expansion of "fundamental rights" under the Due Process clause was not anticipated by its sponsors. Yet under this clause the United States Supreme Court has recognized such rights as the right to abortion, the right to contraceptives, the right to medical treatment, and the right to marry.
It is also to be said that corporate lawyers used the fourteen amendment to push their definition of a "legal person", which entitles corporations the same rights as citizens.
Apportioning of representatives
The second section establishes rules for the apportioning of representatives in 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.
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. An override was passed for all but about five hundred Confederate leaders during reconstruction.
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.