Letter to the Editor: 14th Amendment has prevailed


“, nor shall any State…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

– The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

It was adopted to end practices that the Civil War was fought to abolish. Its language is simple. But it seems, for long periods, to have been simply disregarded by judges, legislators and, quite often, the people.

But eventually it has prevailed because it represents the ultimate decency of the American people. For example, after Jim Crow held sway in parts of the United States for decades after the 14th Amendment became law, justice began to emerge for African Americans. Laws forbidding inter-racial marriage, products of states’ rights, were overruled. Later, so were similar laws imposing segregation. These statutes had imposed rank discrimination on an entire segment of our people for a single reason. They were born black. Equal protection?

From time immemorial, laws imposed rank discrimination on another segment — gays and lesbians. Then we learned that they were born that way. It became clear that their situation was substantially identical to that of African Americans — they were deprived of basic rights for a single reason — the accident of their birth. Equal protection?

With surprising speed, those depravations have toppled. The Supreme Court has finished the job. Homosexual people are free to marry those of the same gender. Who can now rationally argue that they had enjoyed equal protection of the laws?

I can understand why some, because of religious tenets, are troubled by the court’s decision. A reference to history will furnish some parallels. In the years before the Civil War, the three major Christian religions of that era split in two. The reason — abolitionists and others in the north were attacking slavery. The southern denominations contended that provisions of the Bible not only approved slavery, but ordained it. We know the results. We find few advocates for slavery today.

Let’s rejoice that when, in the United States, provisions of the Constitution specify basic freedoms for all our people, opposing passages from religious writings must yield.

And how about love winning out!

Bob Lowerre, Woodstock