The Constitution of the United States provides the basic framework and the guiding principles upon which the United States was founded and is intended to be governed. Since the signing of the Constitution, there have been a number of issues that have required a change, or amendment, to the Constitution. Among those is the 14th Amendment, which is best known for the first section which addresses citizenship, due process, and equal protection.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was one of the Reconstruction Amendments which was enacted shortly after the Civil War. Adopted on 8 July 1868, the amendment was, in large part, a response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, (1957) which held that people of African descent were not allowed to become citizens of the United States and, therefore, were not protected by the Constitution. Slavery was one of the biggest catalysts for the Civil War and, although the Civil War had ended, the issues surrounding slavery still needed to be settled. Both the 13th Amendment and the 14th Amendment were direct responses to the issue of slavery in the United States.
The 13th Amendment made the Emancipation Proclamation permanent by abolishing slavery. The 14th Amendment followed suit three years later by establishing the basis by which a person may be considered a citizen of the United States. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads, "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." Anyone of African descent, including former slaves, were now citizens.
Aside from granting citizenship to anyone born or naturalized within the United States, the 14th Amendment included two additional clauses that have come to hold great importance within the law. The first is known as the "due process clause," while the other is the "equal protection clause." The due process clause reads as follows: "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." The due process clause has been used to argue many legal points both in criminal and civil law. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which reads, "...nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws..." has also formed the basis of many important legal arguments.