Happy 150th Birthday, 14th Amendment

Happy 150th Birthday, 14th Amendment

Joshua Roberts / Reuters On July 9, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution turns 150. On the same day, President Donald Trump will nominate a new Supreme Court justice to replace Anthony Kennedy, who, more than anyone else in America, has defined the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment for the past three decades. The convergence of these momentous events is appropriate. Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was originally intended to allow Congress and the courts to protect three fundamental values: racial equality, individual rights, and economic liberty. But the amendment was quickly eviscerated by the Court, and for nearly a century it protected economic liberty alone. Justice Kennedy embraced all three values of the Fourteenth Amendment, invoking it to protect reproductive autonomy and some forms of affirmative action, as well as to establish marriage equality, but also to limit federal economic regulations, such as the Affordable Care Act. His replacement will determine which vision of the amendment prevails for decades to come. After the Civil War, many of the former Confederate states passed laws known as the “Black Codes,” which sharply limited the rights of former enslaved people. In response, on July 9, 1868, Congress ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law and also denies any state the right to deprive people of liberty without due process. Only five years later, the Supreme Court eviscerated the amendment in the 5–4 Slaughterhouse Cases decision. As drafted by the Ohio congressman John Bingham, the amendment […]

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