TEXT OF 14th AMENDMENT
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
The 14th amendment is a very important amendment that defines what it means to be a US citizen and protects certain rights of the people. There are three important “clauses” in the 14th amendment, each of which are still important today. A clause is a sentence in any part of our constitution.
Citizenship Clause – the citizenship clause gives individual born in the United States, but especially at that time, African Americans the right to citizenship. Before the 14th amendment, African Americans could not become citizens and this limited the rights of those that were able to escape slavery and become free. This clause allows all people born in the United States to be US citizens. Although this right was established by the Civil Rights of 1866, this amendment made the law permanent as many feared that the law could be overturned and take away the citizenship of African Americans. Later on, the Supreme Court protected this right for the children of immigrants and the right of Native Americans to become citizens also was protected later on.
Once you have American citizenship, it cannot be taken from you by Congress or other authorities, unless you lie to government during the process to get US citizenship. Otherwise, everyone that becomes an American citizen stays an American citizen, unless they give it up themselves.
Due Process Clause – the due process clause protects the 1st amendment rights of the people and prevents those rights from being taken away by any government without “due process.” Due process is a trial by jury for all people accused of wrongdoing. Although you may think the 1st amendment already protects these rights, the 14th amendment specially enforces the Bill of Rights on the states, to make sure that they can never limit the rights of Americans without fairness. There were also a number of rights that are protected for those that are accused of a crime but have not been proven to do anything wrong yet.
Equal Protection Clause – This part of the fourteenth amendment states that there may be no discrimination against them by the law. The federal government enforces this protection on the states, ensuring that they do not. Remember that the Bill of Rights protects some rights for Americans. The equal protection clause extended this protection to the state governments. This clause of the 14th amendment would later be used to end discrimination and segregation in the South.
The 14th amendment was important in bring the Confederacy back into the United States after the Civil War. The US took responsibility for the pensions for soldier that had fought in the war and refused to take on the Confederate debts, while also preventing former Confederate leaders from holding elected office or civil positions. Section 3 of the amendment allowed some of these leaders to regain their posts if 2/3 of the state legislatures voted to allow it. The 14th amendment also ensured that debts due to the emancipation of slaves were “null and void” (not allowed).