The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted in July of 1868 after the end of the Civil War. It’s main purpose was to define fundamental rights from a federal level and not a state level.
Main Clauses in the 14th Amendment
There are three important aspects of the amendment that stand out. They are the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Citizenship Clause.
Civil Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution are inherently linked to each other for both legal and historical reasons. Civil rights are contained in the U.S. Constitution. However, the rights from the constitution are specified for United States citizens and the limitations on government power are limitations on the federal government.
Limitations to Civil Rights
Up to this point, each state in the union had great power to limit a citizen’s freedom for many reasons. Prior to the Civil War, much of it was based on race. For this reason, the Fourteenth Amendment was important as a missing link between the protection of civil rights at both the federal and state level.
The Equal Protection Clause was an attempt to empower the federal judicial branch to enforce civil rights at the state level. This clause required states to basically treat everyone equally. Specifically in the south, it meant no more segregation.
There was an attempt to get around this clause by maintaining segregation but with equal facilities. This was eventually struck down. The first great test of civil rights protection under the Equal Protection Clause came in 1880. A black man was convicted of murder by an all white jury in the state of West Virginia. The all white jury was due to a law that excluded blacks from serving on juries.
In Struder vs. West Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that the black defendant has been denied equal protection. Today the Equal Protection Clause has been interpreted in many ways to protect many people.
The Due Process Clause provides an individual with protection from both state and local governments against seizure of their life, property, or freedom without a certain legal process being taken first.
This creates a situation in which people are innocent until proven guilty. It’s main purpose was to have the Bill of Rights apply to individuals at a state level.
The third important clause was the Citizenship Clause which made every person born on United States soil, an American citizen. There has been much debate, especially recently, on whether this should be changed.
Often times, people will want the repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment, but what they are referring to is the Citizenship Clause without understanding the importance of both the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.
Having seen the significance of the three main clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution, the contribution and role that it plays can be fully understood, if not appreciated.