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The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was one of the three Reconstruction Amendments which, along with the 13th and 15th, was primarily intended to establish equal civil rights for former slaves. It was passed by Congress on June 13, 1866, and ratified by the states as of July 9, 1868.
The 14th Amendment contained three major provisions:
The Citizenship Clause granted citizenship to All persons born or naturalized in the United States.
The Due Process Clause declared that states may not deny any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law."
The Equal Protection Clause said that a state may not deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The amendment also included provisions for determining a states representatives to the federal government, and it contained a number of provisions that applied to officials of the former Confederacy.
The 14th Amendment marked a significant shift in the way the Constitution was applied in America. Prior to its enactment, the individual protections offered by the Bill of Rights were enforceable only against the federal government. The 14th Amendment applied these rights to the states. In so doing, it initiated a flood of litigation to determine the amendments meaning and scopelitigation that continues to this day.
The 14th Amendment is cited in more court cases than any other, often in matters seeking to end discrimination against individuals based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other statuses. Its long history of litigation traces the struggle for civil and legal rights for all Americans.
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 the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.