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UC Research Spurs Lawmakers to Propose 14th Amendment Vote

Ohio may finally ratify the 14th Amendment, after research from UC's Urban Justice Institute showed that a pair of votes 135 years ago left Ohio's approval in doubt.

Date: 2/5/2003 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825

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Two members of the Ohio General Assembly announced at the University of Cincinnati on Monday they will sponsor a resolution that will confer Ohio’s ratification upon the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The legislators are acting after research by students from the UC College of Law’s Urban Justice Institute recently brought to light the fact that a pair of votes 135 years ago put into doubt Ohio’s ratification of the amendment.

State Sen. Mark Mallory (D – Cincinnati) and State Rep. Gary Cates (R – West Chester) hope to introduce the resolution this week, with a goal of getting it passed at the special Joint Session of the General Assembly coming up on March 1 in Chillicothe. The session will be part of the Statehood Day celebration during Ohio’s Bicentennial year.

Sen. Mark Mallory, center, meets with Urban Justice Institute representatives.

The 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War and guarantees equal protection of the law to all citizens.

“This effort is an illustration of how I would like to see us come together,” said Mallory, referring to the racial issues which have divided Cincinnati in the past two years. “The ratification of the 14th Amendment would be a great symbolic step in this year of Ohio’s Bicentennial.”

“The project being introduced today is most important,” said Jack Chin, the co-director of the Urban Justice Institute and the Rufus King Professor of Law at the UC College of Law. “With the possible exception of the Declaration of Independence, the 14th Amendment is quite simply the most important law in U.S. history.”

Since its adoption, the 14th Amendment has been the underpinning for a number of landmark Supreme Court decisions, including Brown vs. Board of Education and decisions that guaranteed the right to marriage and the right to own property, said Robert Baker, one of seven law students who produced a research report which was forwarded to the legislators.

Ohio initially voted to ratify the 14th Amendment in 1867. But before it became law, a newly-elected General Assembly in 1868 rescinded the previous assembly’s vote of approval.

Ohio is the only state remaining that was in the Union in 1868 and has not yet voted to ratify the 14th Amendment.

“I would like to congratulate the students on their good work,” said Cates. “Someone asked me the other day, ‘Why now?’ about this issue. The answer is I never knew about this previously. I compliment the students on their steadfastness.”

Besides Baker, other law students who worked on the project include Daniel Dodd, Michael Haas, Rebecca Klein, Peder Nestingen, Jack Simms and Jesika Thompson. Chin and UC law lecturer John Cranley, the other co-director of the Urban Justice Institute, helped oversee their work.

After the bills are introduced in the Ohio House and Senate, the next step will be hearings on the issue. It is anticipated that the UC students will be called to Columbus to participate in those hearings.


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