The State Citizenship Clause

49 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2022

See all articles by Kurt T. Lash

Kurt T. Lash

University of Richmond School of Law

Date Written: August 21, 2022


The first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment contains not one, but two citizenship clauses. The first defines national citizenship and the second defines state citizenship. Although a significant body of scholarship exists regarding the history and meaning of the former, no prior work has investigated the origins and original understanding of the latter.

Unlike the National Citizenship Clause, the State Citizenship Clause had no analogue in the 1866 Civil Rights Act. The unique language of State Citizenship Clause emerged out of a private Republican Senate Caucus which met to address concerns about the Joint Committee’s proposed Fourteenth Amendment. Post-passage criticism of the 1866 Civil Rights Act had revealed a major flaw in the Act: The statute failed to secure the status of state citizenship and potentially left open a loophole through which states might continue to deny Black Americans equal civil rights. The State Citizenship Clause closed this loophole by securing the status of local citizenship for every resident American citizen, regardless of race. Any state law that denied a local civil right on the basis of race by definition denied that resident their status of equal state citizenship. Throughout the ratification period, proponents of the Fourteenth Amendment repeatedly insisted that the final language of Section One prohibited states from denying equal civil rights to any resident American citizen. This prohibition on racial discrimination was not limited to certain “fundamental” civil rights. It applied to all state level civil rights, no matter how trivial. This history suggests that the original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment supports decisions like Brown v. Board of Education but does so on the basis of the original understanding of the State Citizenship Clause.

Suggested Citation

Lash, Kurt T., The State Citizenship Clause (August 21, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Kurt T. Lash (Contact Author)

University of Richmond School of Law ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

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