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14th Amendment -Equal Protection Under The Law

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In school especially, as well as throughout our daily lives, we learn in America to live by the idea of freedom and equality for all. We do not allow race, class, or creed to determine a person's stature in the community. It may seem as if this is the standard of society, but these ideas of equality have been fought over since the beginning of written history, and even in America today, prejudice still exists. To address these and similar problems, the founding fathers of this nation created a Constitution which included laws that dealt with individual freedoms. However great the founding fathers envisioned the United States Constitution, it did not form a perfect union and justice for all. America would have to amend, or add to, the Constitution in order to serve its constituents better. The most powerful constitutional act towards equality would come with the fourteenth amendment. This amendment permanently changed constitutional law by empowering the Federal government's jurisdiction to include local and state governments which would be required to abide by new standards of civil rights and privileges.

In 1791, the states ratified ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These became known as the Bill of Rights, a cornerstone in providing individual liberty. The United States Senate dropped one of the original proposals stating, "No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience or the freedom of press or trial by jury in criminal cases", something that the fourteenth amendment would address. James Madison, one of the Bill of Rights creators knew the importance of this vital clause and commented, "There is more danger of those powers being abused by state government then by the government of the United States". This decision by the Senate to leave out Madison's revered clause would leave laws protecting individual liberty for state and local governments to create and uphold. Because of the inconsistency by states towards individual freedom as well as fairness in the eyes of the law, it would be extremely important for an amendment like the fourteenth to unify American equality.

The fourteenth amendment is made up of five sections. Today only two of them hold any relevance: the first and the fifth. The second, third, and fourth sections all deal with managing the southern states that had left the union before the civil war. The first section contains perhaps the two most important phrases in American constitutional law, due process and equal protection. Equal protection has come to be interpreted as all people being treated equally under the law. It reads," no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States." It provides that the state must use fair procedures when it acts to limit a person's life, liberty, or property.

The fourteenth amendment is known for creating, "equal protection under the law", but before this amendment not all people would be considered eligible for these kinds of protection. Amendment fourteen begins by defining citizenship as, "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" thus reversing a Supreme Court decision in which African Americans were not and could not be citizens. This racial issue was a main reason for which the amendment was written. By including African Americans, the fourteenth amendment would take bold



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