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The Fourteenth Amendment was added in 1868 as one of the longest amendments to the Constitution. With five parts in total, this amendment indicates that we have protection against state infringements, defines citizenship, prohibits states from interfering with privileges and immunities, requires due process and equal protection, punishes states for denying the right to vote, and disqualifies Confederate officials and debts. Under this amendment, it is mandatory for states to protect liberty as well as life and property. One of the goals and main purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to give legal effect to the Civil Rights Bill of 1866. As a result of the post-Civil War amendments, the court determined that the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause incorporates most of the amendment (Hall, 2009). This amendment requires due process and equal protection. But in the very first sentence of section one, all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, as citizens of the United States and of the state where in they reside. Citizenship was universalized. The amendment was designed to prohibit state governments from curtailing the rights of former slaves after the Civil War. However, it has been used to grant all of the personal liberties and rights conveyed in the Bill of Rights.
The Fourteenth Amendment gives definition to citizenship, requires due process and equal protection under the law, and reduces representation in Congress for states that deny voting rights to its citizens. In the Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Taney ruled that United States citizenship belonged only to two classes of people; White people born in the United States as descendants of people, who were at the time of the adoption of the Constitution recognized as citizens in the several States and [who] became also citizens of this new political body, and those who were born outside the dominions of the United States: but had migrated there and had become naturalized citizens. Prior to the Constitution, each state regulated citizenship. With the adaptation of the document, Congress had the authority to establish a uniform rule for naturalization, but not citizenship. That was still left up to the state. In order to become a citizen of the United States, one had to first become a citizen of one of the States. Any Negro was ineligible to attain citizenship, either by naturalization or birth, even as a free man, any one of African descent could still not become a citizen. The purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to make citizenship of black individuals permanent and secure. The amendment did not entirely universalize citizenship, for it left out the right to vote. Therefore, there was the need for the Fifteenth Amendment, giving the right to vote to former slaves (African-Americans) and the Nineteenth Amendments, granting the right to vote women.
The Supreme Court under Justice Miller rejected that the amendment’s privileges and immunity clause incorporated the Bill of Rights. He believed that the only rights protected were access to Washington, D.C., and coastal seaports; the right to protection on the high seas; the right to use navigable waters of the United States; the right to assembly and petition; and the privilege of Habeas Corpus.
The Supreme Court recognized in 1925 with Gitlow v. New York that the Bill of Rights was meant for all people, not just rich or wealthy, white males. The court held that freedom of speech and of the press were basic personal rights that were protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person equal protection of the law. And in the 1960s, the Fourteenth Amendment really came into play. The amendment was used to protect our civil rights and liberties as Americans.
After verifying the occurrence and the nature of the crime, investigators must then identify who committed the crime, and finally the perpetrators must be physically apprehended (Brandl, S. 2008). But the question is, do the police officers respect what this amendment stated for equal protection and due process? Due process operates under the principle that efficiency is less important than eliminating errors, and protection of law is more important than end result of conviction. Yet there are several people that been convicted for crimes that they did not commit. In the 1960’s the Supreme Court then applied that clause to those accused of crimes. They thoroughly interpreted the Eighth Amendment, regarding cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bail. In 1963, the court universalized the right of the accused to have a lawyer, as noted in the Sixth Amendment. In the subsequent year, the right to “plead the Fifth”, or not incriminate one’s self, was incorporated and guaranteed as a universal right. In 1966, the Court implemented the right for a person to remain silent while being questioned by the police. This Sixth Amendment right now appliesto all United States citizens.
In 1972, with Roe v. Wade, concerning a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, the Supreme Court decided that within the Fourteenth Amendment existed a fundamental right to privacy as the amendment guarantees liberty. And today, there are many constitutional scholars that believe that embedded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy is the right of homosexuality and homosexual behavior.
The Fourteenth Amendment is what distinguishes the United States from any other democracy in the world. The Amendment truly is the charter of universal freedom, for it guarantees that any person, black, white, Asian, female, or homosexual will have the same Constitutional guarantees as the next person. It deems that we are all equal under the law, meaning we are all equal under the Constitution and should govern ourselves accordingly. We are warranted the same rights, protection, privacy, and due process under the law as any other American citizen regardless of race, age, religion, or sexual orientation.
Does the Fourteenth Amendment “Incorporate” the Protections of the Bill of Rights and Make Them Enforceable Against the States (law2.umkc.edu)? According to Hall (2009), this amendment’s equal protection clause is one of the primary vehicles for protecting constitutional equality. But before the Civil War, this provision only applied to state governments. How was the federal government held accountable for equal protection when the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to the state level? To answer this question, the federal government is also constitutionally required to afford equal protection of the law and is found in the Fifth Amendment. Hall also concluded that the results today are three primary values represented in the Constitution – Security, Liberty, and Equality. But is arguably until this day, there are constitutional controversies when down to their basic arguments are distilled, involving tension between these values. Hall suggests and gives examples of these tensions:
An element to any due process or equal protection claim that requires sufficient government action which means that federal, state, or local- to be involved.
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