Why is the 14th Amendment so important to civil rights and liberties?
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The 14th Amendment is important to these two things for different reasons.
It is important to civil rights because it is the amendment that says that all people must be treated equally. If all people are to enjoy the “equal protection of the laws” then things like racial segregation are, we would think, unconstitutional. The idea that all people should be treated equally is also a major argument being used by proponents of gay marriage, which is also a civil rights issue.
With regard to civil liberties, the connection is less clear. However, the 14th Amendment is important in this regard because it says that states cannot deprive people of their life, liberty or property without due process of the law. What the Supreme Court has said is that this means the states have to abide by most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. So, for example, the fact that the states have to adhere to the First Amendment is due to the fact that the 14th Amendment says (according to the Supreme Court) that they must. Therefore, the 14th Amendment is also important for civil liberties.
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