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Opinion/Letter: 14th Amendment was potent, positive force

Opinion/Letter: 14th Amendment was potent, positive force

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The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states in part: “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.”

The 14th Amendment has been the constitutional basis for virtually every major Supreme Court civil rights decision, such as the prohibition of segregation in public schools (1954), the right of married couples to use contraception (1965), legalized interracial marriage (1967) and giving women a measure of control over their own reproduction by legalizing abortion (1973). In each of those cases, the Supreme Court negated state laws that did not recognize those rights.

To be adopted, constitutional amendments have to be approved by both houses of Congress and then ratified by three fourths of the state legislatures. In my opinion, the 14th Amendment could not be ratified today. Red states would never ratify it even if it got through filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

I believe the only time when it could have been ratified was when it was — during Reconstruction in 1868 when white Southern politicians were neutered for a short period of years.

I also think it is questionable whether the 15th Amendment (prohibiting denial of the right to vote based on race, color or previous servitude) could be ratified today.

And now we have a Supreme Court that appears to be uninterested in applying the 14th Amendment to prohibit states from abridging our constitutional rights, as demonstrated in its recent decision issued on Sept. 2 to let stand a new Texas law that effectively bans abortion in that state.

Dennis S. Rooker

Albemarle County

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