Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provides legal protections for individuals against actions by state governments.
The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified after the Civil War (1861-1865) to provide protection for individuals, including the African Americans
The amendment guarantees three primary rights: due process
The Court’s first major interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment was in the Slaughterhouse Cases
During the twentieth century, the Court began to use the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause as the mechanism for applying the protections of the Bill of Rights against the states. Through a process that scholars call “incorporation,” the Court gradually decided that many provisions of the Bill of Rights, which protect individuals against actions by the federal government, should be incorporated in the due process clause in order to provide protection for individuals against actions by state and local governments.
Beginning with the Court’s decision in Gitlow v. New York
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the Court used the due process clause as a general source of protection for economic liberty. It relied on the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down a variety of state laws seeking to regulate businesses and enhance social welfare. For example, in Lochner v. New York
The due process clause has also been interpreted to provide other protections for individuals. For example, in Brown v. Mississippi
Initially, the Court did not interpret the equal protection clause as a strong vehicle for eliminating discrimination
In interpreting and applying the equal protection clause, the Court developed a special analytical approach that requires the government to show compelling reasons for any policy or program that involves racial discrimination. The only time that state governments have been able to successfully justify treating people differently with regard to their race has been in cases concerning affirmative action programs that seek to remedy the country’s long history of discrimination by giving extra consideration to school and job applicants who are members of racial groups that have been victimized by discrimination. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
The Court rejected efforts to apply the equal protection clause to private discrimination
During the 1970’s, the Court expanded the applicability of the equal protection clause by interpreting it to prohibit many kinds of discrimination
Because the Fourteenth Amendment was the first constitutional provision explicitly aimed at giving individuals protection against state actions, the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment have been relied on by the Court for broadly expanding the scope and reach of constitutional rights. The Court paid little attention to the privileges or immunities clause until its decision in Saenz v. Roe
The history of the Fourteenth Amendment and its role in expanding the scope of rights is examined in Michael Kent Curtis’s No State Shall Abridge: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986). The incorporation process is analyzed in Henry J. Abraham’s Freedom and the Court (5th ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). Raoul Berger’s Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977) provides a critique of the Court’s expansion of constitutional rights. The Court’s use of the due process clause to protect economic liberties is analyzed in Howard Gillman’s The Constitution Besieged: The Rise and Demise of “Lochner” Era Police Powers Jurisprudence (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993). Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice (New York: Random House, 1975) provides a detailed account of the Court’s use of the equal protection clause to attack racial discrimination. A comprehensive presentation of the Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment is contained in William B. Lockhart, Yale Kamisar, Jesse H. Choper, and Steven H. Shiffrin’s The American Constitution (6th ed., St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1986). The justices’ voting records on Fourteenth Amendment issues are analyzed in Thomas R. Hensley, Christopher E. Smith, and Joyce A. Baugh’s The Changing Supreme Court: Constitutional Rights and Liberties (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1997).
Brown v. Mississippi
Due process, procedural
Due process, substantive
Equal protection clause
Privileges and immunities
Race and discrimination
Rostker v. Goldberg
San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez