July 9th, 1868 was an important day in your life! Even though it was 150 years ago, that day has had a monumental impact on all of our lives. That was the day the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. [For a timeline of important events leading up to the 14th Amendment, click here]
African Americans and their allies fought to abolish slavery and secure citizenship rights. That struggle paved the way for the 14th Amendment which ensured “equal protection under the law” -- a clause that has been used by people of all races, faiths, genders, and sexual orientations to advance fairness and human dignity.
This is the text of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. It is worth a slow read.
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.
The 14th Amendment is best known for defining who is a citizen, strengthening due process, and introducing the phrase “equal protection of the law” into the Constitution. But its impact is even more far-reaching: it protects many of the rest of the rights in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from violations by a state, city or other local government.
There are a million reasons we should recognize the people who brought us the 14th and the people who have fought again and again to secure its full meaning. Here are just 14 of the reasons to #Powerthe14th.
#Powerthe14th: Youth Speaks
Award winning Youth Radio explores the meaning of the 14th Amendment to young audiences and begs the question: How can You Power the 14th?
The origin of the 14th was the struggle to abolish slavery followed by ten years of Reconstruction. But white supremacy was and is resilient. The fight for equal protection and racial justice must continue.
Have you dated, loved, or married someone of a different race? Are you the child of an interracial relationship? Whomever you love, you should also give some love to the 14th.
Are you one of the millions and millions of Americans who have used birth control to prevent pregnancy, or even breakouts? Who knew an amendment could be so sexy?
Were you born in the United States? If so, you are a citizen because the 14th says all persons born here are citizens.
Do you support equal access to quality education for all? The 14th helped strike down legally sanctioned “separate but equal” schools. In later years, the 14th secured equal access to education for undocumented children. Today, the fight for educational equity continues.
Have you ever been to a rally? Marched for your rights? You can protest legally in every city and state of the Union thanks to the power of the 14th - it applies the First Amendment to the whole country and to every person. (You can also speak up at school, thanks to the 1st and 14th.)
If you are ever accused of a crime, you are guaranteed “due process”--i.e. a jury trial, and the services of an attorney to aid with your defense. Members of the jury can not be chosen or disqualified because of their race. While we know we must fight harder than ever to make sure “due process” is actually just, it helps to have the 14th on our side.
Are you religious? Would you want to practice your religion no matter what state you lived in? Do you choose not to be part of a religion? Either way, your right to choose your own religion, instead of your local or state government telling you, is thanks to the 1st and the 14th.
Do you believe in “one person, one vote?” IF you are over 18, are you registered to vote? Have you voted? Please say you have!! Along with its friends the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th Amendments, the 14th Amendment also protects the equal right to vote.
Do you believe transgender youth should be able to use the facilities at school that correspond to their gender? Trans youth are entitled to equal access to education without discrimination because of the 14th Amendment.