The Constitution sets the framework for our nation in an effort to limit government abuse of power and secure the rights of the people. Although America is often referred to as a “democracy,” it is in actuality a republic. The Framers were afraid of the pure form of democracy, which they thought was equivalent to tyranny of the majority, in which the rights and concerns of minorities would be ignored. However, the Constitution has guided the nation in the direction of protecting minorities’ rights, most specifically through the Bill of Rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Throughout history, many minority groups have used the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to expand their suffrage and pursue their interests. Since the 1800s, women had been using their First Amendment rights to fight for the right to vote. In the Seneca Falls Convention, they applied their right to freedom of assembly by holding the first women’s rights convention and petitioning the government by signing the Declaration of Sentiments. Effectively using the freedom of the press, the convention raised the profile of their cause in newspapers. Through these First Amendment guarantees, women were able to make progress in their fight for suffrage, eventually securing it in 1920 by passage of the 19th Amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause have also been widely cited in securing the freedoms of minority groups. The Due Process Clause ensures that the content of law must be fair, while the Equal Protection Clause ensures that states must apply the equal protection of laws to all persons. In the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws establishing segregated public schools were unconstitutional, concluding that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Using judicial review, the Court deemed de jure segregation a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This decision played an integral role in advancing the Civil Rights Movement, an effort to combat long-term discrimination against African Americans.
Even in our modern-day society, the Constitution is still used to preserve the interests and rights of minorities. In the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Court extended the fundamental right of marriage to same-sex couples throughout the United States by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. This decision has expanded civil rights to members of the LGBTQ community and protected their interests.
In these two cases, Obergefell v. Hodges and Brown v. Board of Education, minority groups were able to apply the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment to expand their civil liberties and interests. Through the Bill of Rights, minority groups have fought – and can continue to fight – for their freedoms and advocate for their political interests. Although their goals may not be achieved immediately, the Constitution has provided the necessary rights for all groups to voice their concerns, in effect, preserving the interests of those outside the majority.