Fourteenth Amendment

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution reads:

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 Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, has generated more lawsuits than any other provision of the U.S. Constitution. Section 1 of the amendment has been the centerpiece of most of this litigation. It makes "All persons born or naturalized in the United States"citizens of the United States and citizens of the state in which they reside. This section also prohibits state governments from denying persons within their jurisdiction the PRIVILEGES OR IMMUNITIES of U.S. citizenship, and guarantees to every such person DUE PROCESS and EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS. The Supreme Court has ruled that any state law that abridges FREEDOM OF SPEECH, freedom of religion, the right to trial by jury, the RIGHT TO COUNSEL, the right against

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SELF-INCRIMINATION, the right against unreasonable SEARCHES AND SEIZURES, or the right against CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS will be invalidated under section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. This holding is called the INCORPORATION DOCTRINE.

Sections 2 to 5 have been the subject of far fewer lawsuits. Some of these sections seem anachronistic today because they reflect the immediate concerns of the Union's political leadership following the North's victory over the South in the Civil War (1861?65). Section 2, for example, penalized any state that attempted to abridge the VOTING RIGHTS of its black male residents by reducing the state's representation in Congress (no female resident of any race was afforded the constitutional right to vote in the United States until 1920). Section 3 prohibited from holding state or federal office any person who engaged in "insurrection or rebellion" or otherwise gave "aid or comfort to the enemies" during the Civil War. Section 4 reaffirmed the United States' commitment to pay its Civil War debt, while declaring all debts and obligations incurred by the Confederate government "illegal and void." Section 5 enabled, and continues to enable, Congress to pass "appropriate legislation" to enforce the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment was drafted to alleviate several concerns harbored by many...

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