It’s Time to #Powerthe14th
Whether you realize it or not, July 9, 1868 was a day that changed your life and ours. Why? Because it was the day that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified.
On July 9th, we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment. This amendment has protected people of every race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. It protects citizen and non-citizen alike.
At the time of our country’s founding in 1776, and the adoption of the Constitution in 1789, the nation’s laws protected and upheld slavery. Our collective rights today are rooted in the 13th Amendment, the movement to abolish slavery—and the 14th Amendment that soon followed. This transformative period is considered the second founding of the United States.
Section One of the 14th Amendment reads:
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.
Originating in the struggle to abolish slavery, and secure the civil rights of African Americans, the 14th Amendment expanded the rights of all people, providing citizenship to every person born on U.S. soil. It also guaranteed equal protection of the law to all people, not just citizens.
Through the struggle of people who fought for freedom and equality, the 14th Amendment made manifest America’s loftiest goals. In the past 150 years, it has been used time and again to advance racial justice, voting rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, and LGBTQ rights. Even the basic rights of free speech and religious freedom in the First Amendment only gained ground in schools, cities, and states because of the 14th Amendment.
On July 4th, the nation celebrates the Declaration of Independence. But this year, let’s continue the celebration through July 9th. Let’s reaffirm our commitment to the values of the 14th Amendment– that all persons deserve equal protection under the law.
Lift up our shared humanity
Our client and transgender rights leader Gavin Grimm recently saw a big win when US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that transgender students are protected from discrimination. Our case began with claims grounded in both the 14th Amendment and the Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. In very concrete terms, this means Gavin may proceed in his lawsuit against his former Virginia school district.
“After fighting this policy since I was 15 years old,” he said just after the verdict, “I finally have a court decision saying that what the Gloucester County School Board did to me was wrong and it was against the law. I was determined not to give up because I didn’t want any other student to have to suffer the same experience that I had to go through.”
We understand that throughout history, when the people who are most marginalized—even vilified—win their rights, that our rights are solidified.
We honor this legacy and make the 14th Amendment real by fighting alongside those who are under attack.
The power of the 14th Amendment rests in the people who fight for the idea that all persons are deserving of equal protection under the law.
This anniversary will help us define what it means to be American – on our terms.
So, we pledge to protect the 14th Amendment and to power, motivate, and push forward connections between us, and to protect the rights of everyone citizen and non-citizen alike.
We are all freer today because African Americans and their allies led a struggle for freedom and equal protection brought forward by the 14th Amendment. Now spread the word, far and wide.
Through the #Powerthe14th Campaign, we hope to do three things:
Highlight people in our Northern California communities who are using their power on the side of equal protection;
Highlight some of the key ways that the 14th Amendment affects our lives today;
Bring us together across our differences to protect the rights of every person.
How will you #Powerthe14th?
More information on #Powerthe14th Campaign is available at powerthe14th.org.
Abdi Soltani is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California. Candice Francis is the Communications Director of the ACLU of Northern California.