Covering the topics of citizenship, equal protection, due process, war debts, and apportionment, the 14th; one of the "reconstruction" amendments, helped dramatically change our country for the better. In my opinion, there is no single amendment to our constitution more important than the 14th. I will discuss each clause or part of the amendment, its historical context and how it is relevant today. I am not a historian or legal scholar, just a guy who's really passionate about the US constitution. I would encourage anyone with expertise on this topic to correct me if they see any errors.
"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." With few exceptions (such as children born to foreign ambassadors) anyone born in the US is a US citizen.It doesn't matter if your mother got off a banana boat five minutes before giving birth . If her ass was on American soil while she was screaming in pain, you're an American. The original intent of this clause was to give citizenship to black people, who, thanks to Dredd Scott were not considered citizens even if they were born here. Today the birth-right citizenship clause is under attack because of the far-right's concern about the proliferation of taco trucks. The derogatory term "anchor baby" originates from the idea that mothers come to the states illegally and give birth so that they themselves have a right to stay.This phenomenon,however, is a myth since the 14th amendment clearly does not give anyone the right to reside in the United States other than people born on our soil.
"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." You know how on a police procedural show, when a suspect gets arrested, the cop reads him his rights? You can thank the 14th amendment for that.The first 10 amendments set some ground rules for the then new federal government. Don't establish a state religion. Don't censor people. Don't torture people. Don't take their shit without compensation. Don't throw them in jail for no reason. Before the 14th amendment, however, the states' rights trumped human rights. The first 10 amendments didn't apply to them. You remember how the Declaration of Independence said "all men are created equal"? It's kind of hard to enshrine that sentiment in a legally binding constitution without touching your right to own another man. With the slaves freed, the 14th amendment made it clear that everyone would be treated equally under the law regardless of their skin color. It took a about a century of fighting in court and congress for the 14th amendment to provide true equality.While its original purpose was related to racial minorities, African-Americans in particular, the 14th has also been used to protect other groups .The 14th amendment was applied in Obergefelle v Hodges in which the court ruled that states were required to allow and recognize same-sex marriage.
"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." The infamous 3/5 compromise allowed slave states to count 3 out of every 5 slaves as part of their populations for the purpose of congressional apportionment. After abolition of slavery, the constitution's guidelines on apportionment were in need of an update. So now all of the blacks are "persons". Hurray!
"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." This clause has little relevance today, if at all, but was important after a civil war in which many former civil servants , politicians, and soldiers took up arms against the federal government. They could only get a government job (elected or appointed)if 2/3 of both houses of Congress voted to "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" During the war, bonds were issued to raise revenue for the CSA, some of which the confederacy had not paid back.This clause made these debts illegal. Since slave owners had what had legally been their property taken from them, they could have made a case for compensation from the federal government. The 14th amendment made it clear that no one was getting paid to make up for losing human livestock.
"The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article." As was the case with the 13 and 15th amendments, Republicans knew that the courts alone could not enforce the 14th amendment. The final clause of the 14th gave congress the power that it needed to pass numerous civil rights bills.
Obergefell V Hodges wiki
Dredd Scott V Sanford wiki
Fourteenth amendment to the United States a Constitution wiki
Economy of the Confederate States of America wiki