Amendment Fourteen — Due Process
Amendment Fourteen is one of the most used (and, perhaps, misused) parts of the Constitution.
Amendment Fourteen came out of the Civil War. Basically, it says that all men 21 or older will be counted to determine representation in Congress, with a reduction in that count for anyone not allowed to vote; that no one in the Confederate government (or any future government of insurrection) may be members of the U.S. government (unless approved by a two-thirds vote); and that all debts incurred by the U.S. to fight the Confederacy are to be paid, but none of those incurred by the Confederacy would be.
It also states that no State shall make any law abridging the rights of any of its citizens without due process of law.
The 14th Amendment is important, but the first clause is the most important.
Amendment Fourteen’s vital role
Prior to the 14th, states were free to ignore the Bill of Rights; a series of Supreme Court rulings made it clear that the Bill was to apply to acts of the Federal Government only. With the establishment of the 14th, the Bill, or at least parts of it, is made to apply to state law, too. This clause has resulted in some good law, such as the Voting Rights Act. But States’ Rights proponents are opposed to the Amendment in parts and/or as a whole.
The Supreme Court, at first, did not allow the Due Process clause to be used to expand individual liberties (1870’s and 1880’s). Eventually, though, it was used to protect more than just former slaves. In the 1900’s and 1930’s, it extended the clause to the protection of workers against state regulations, allowing national standards for work conditions and minimum wage to be set. The due process clause has been used to extend the Bill of Rights Amendments to all Americans.
A Constitutional Scholar weighs in
My opinion? Well, the Supreme Court, in the end, is the legal arbiter of Constitutional interpretation. What they say goes. In my research, I found some cases that I agreed with and some that I did not. In general, however, I can say that I feel that as long as those rights don’t impinge on another individual’s rights, the rights of the individual must outweigh those of the state, and the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees that.
“In general, however, I can say that I feel that as long as those rights don’t impinge on another individual’s rights, the rights of the individual must outweigh those of the state, and the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees that.”
–Clay Blanche, Conservative Minuteman
Note: some have tried to argue that because of the representation reduction clause and the implications on States’ Rights, that the 14th Amendment is unconstitutional. However, since it is an amendment to the Constitution, it cannot possibly be unconstitutional. Some argue that it was passed in an unconstitutional way, which is an interesting and plausible argument. The fact remains, however, that it is a part of our Constitution, and deserves as much respect as any other part, unless it is at some point repealed.