Amdt14.S1.9.1 Overview

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 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.

According to an 1880 Supreme Court decision, the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to assure to the colored race the enjoyment of all the civil rights that under the law are enjoyed by white persons, and to give to that race the protection of the general government in that enjoyment, whenever it should be denied by the States. It not only gave citizenship and the privileges of citizenship to persons of color, but it denied to any State the power to withhold from them the equal protection of the laws, and authorized Congress to enforce its provisions by appropriate legislation.1 Thus, a state law that expressly allowed only white men to serve on juries was void. 2 In addition, [t]hough the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet, if it is applied and administered by public authority with an evil eye and an unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of equal justice is still within the prohibition of the Constitution.3

Footnotes

  1.  Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 306-07 (1880).
  2.  Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880) (law limiting jury service to white males). Moreover it will not do to argue that a law that segregates the races or prohibits contacts between them discriminates equally against both races. Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917) (ordinance prohibiting colored people from occupying houses in blocks where white people were predominant and white people from occupying houses in blocks where colored people were predominant). Compare Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583 (1883) (sustaining conviction under statute that imposed a greater penalty for adultery or fornication between a white person and a black person than was imposed for similar conduct by members of the same race, using equal application theory), with McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 188 (1964), and Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 10 (1967) (rejecting theory).
  3.  Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 373–74 (1886) (discrimination against Chinese).