“It is of no moment whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process. The issue before the Court here is the legal question whether the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry” (Politico). That was a quote by Anthony Kennedy, concerning same sex marriage. Few know that decision was made based on the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 (America’s Story). It focused on citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws for all persons (Cornell Law School). And so, the 14th Amendment is partially to thank for the legalization of gay marriage.
The Civil War composed of numerous bloody battles between the Union and the Confederacy, beginning in 1861 and ending in 1865 (Civil War Trust). After Lincoln was elected, 11 Southern states seceded, fearing their right to own slaves was threatened. After the Union won, President Johnson was tasked with piecing together a divided country after Lincoln’s assassination, and he did so through the Reconstruction Amendments. “Slavery is the cancer upon the body politic, which must be rooted out before perfect health can be restored,” Johnson stated in 1864. A year later, the 13th Amendment was added to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude, it was the beginning of the 3 Reconstruction Amendments. Next in 1868 the 14th Amendment was added, granting equal protection under the law to American citizens. Lastly the 15th Amendment granted male African Americans the right to vote in 1870. Together, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments became known as the Reconstruction Amendments, which helped to bring the country together and grant African Americans their rights after a tedious struggle.
Since its ratification in 1868 by Congress, the 14th Amendment has given equality rights to many groups of people. In the years that followed, it has become one of the most important amendments. Anyone born, or naturalized in the United States would have access to all of the rights of an American citizen, and equal protection of the law. An example being Brown v. Board of Education involving racial segregation in public schools. Racial segregation was decided to be a violation of the equal protection clause in a unanimous 9-0 vote for Brown in 1954. This vote overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson case when it was decided to be acceptable to segregate whites and blacks in 1896. Most recently the case of Obergefell v. Hodges went all the way to Supreme Court in 2015, arguing whether it was unconstitutional to not allow same-sex couples to marry. In a close 5-4 ruling, it was decided that same-sex couples had the right to marry under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.
The gay rights movement dates back as far as the late 1960’s in America, when police often raided gay bars. The movement began when homosexuals began to fight against the riots, and thousands of gay rights organizations sprang up across the country. The first achievement came when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. More progress occurred to the point where homosexuals could fight for their right to marry, rather than personal liberation. At long last, same sex marriage was legalized on June 26, 2015. Transgender persons have also fought for their right to be recognized and not discriminated against. Discrimination issues against transgenders include going to the bathroom they identify with, medical coverage for transition surgeries, and other discriminations in school and the workplace. Thanks to transgender rights organizations, equality laws have been granted and discrimination prohibited, with help from the 14th Amendment.
America is an ever changing country; 27 Amendments have been made to the United States Constitution throughout history, granting rights to people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. The 14th Amendment particularly has justified equal rights to the LGBTQ+ community, who use it as an argument for their citizenship rights and equal protection under the law. Despite these achievements, the LGBTQ+ community still hasn’t achieved full equality. In 28 states it is still legal to fire someone for being homosexual, and in 30 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgender. We must spread awareness and vote for equality to stop the violation of the LGBTQ+ community’s rights, to prevent what happened to African Americans before the 14th Amendment.
Article By Karly Talbot and Tifany Wong
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