Fourteenth Amendment Legal Definition: A 1868, post-USA civil war amendment to the US Constitution designed to, inter alia, give full civil and legal rights to former slaves. Related Terms: Eighth Amendment , Due Process , Miranda Warning , Doyle Rule , Fourth Amendment , First Amendment , Fifth Amendment , Sixth Amendment , Thirteenth (13th) Amendment Political events in the United States of America made the 14th Amendment necessary. The Amendment is often referred to as "citizenship rights" and the most important constututional change in the USA since the Bill of Rights. One was the Supreme Court of the United States dreadful 1857 decision in Dred Scott v Sanford which held that slaves, free or not, could never become US citizens, and that slaves were the chattels of their owners and not persons in the eyes of the law. Secondly, many Southern states responded to losing the Civil War by passing, mostly in 1865, Black Codes. Judges have breathed life into the Fourthteenth Amendment by extending the actual text of the Amendment to read into it other legal rights. It was the legal weapon with which racial segregation in American schools was ended in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In Lochner v New York, it was used to found and articulate "liberty of free contract" or liberty of contract. The "due process" words in §1 were used to render the US Supreme Court's abortion decision in Roe v Wade: "... the word 'person' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.... "A state criminal abortion statute ... that excepts from criminality only a lifesaving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved, is violative of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Here is the full actual text of the 1868 "Amendment XIV": ? 1. 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. ? 2. 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. ? 3. 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. ? 4. 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. ? 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article." There exists a body of experts in the USA that continues to this day to proclaim that the Fourteenth Amendment was not properly ratified and therefore ought not to have any force or effect. REFERENCES: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 347 US 483 (1954) Dred Scott v Sandford 60 US 393 (1857) Image of Annie Burton, author of Memories of Childhood's Slavery Days (Boston: Ross Publishing Company, 1909). Lerner, M., The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes (New York: Halycon House, 1948), pages 145-148. Lochner v. New York 198 US 45 (1905) Roe v. Wade 410 US 113 (1973) The United States Constitution Unless otherwise noted, this page was written by Lloyd Duhaime of Duhaime.org Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only) If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!