Stevens's Legacy Continues to Affect Nation
Unlike other historical figures, the work of Thaddeus Stevens continues to resonant in our
time. This was driven home recently when a federal judge in California ruled that gay
marriage was legal under the equal protection provision of the 14th Amendment -- Thad's
The amendment was also in the news when some conservatives started a crusade to
change it's provision granting citizenship to all people born in the United States. As usual, a
Fox News commentator disgraced himself when he referred to this monumental amendment
as the "anchor baby" amendment.
Even though this country was founded on the principle of "all men are equal," America was
a very unequal society. About the only "equal" people were white men, who were a minority
of the population.
The 14th Amendment was the great breakthrough in the fight for equality. With its adoption
in 1868, equality became the law of the land, but seeing that the law was actually
implemented has been an ongoing battle to this day.
Stevens, who introduced the measure to Congress, was not happy with the changed made
by other legislators. If the original version had passed, women probably would have gotten
the vote 60 years earlier than they did because it rewarded states that gave the vote to
women with more representation in Congress. Stevens also objected to injecting the word
"male" into the amendment -- the only time it appears in the Constitution.
Stevens told Congress he was going to vote against the changed amendment, but in the
end, he voted for it, reasoning it was the best that could be done. And despite its flaws, the
14th Amendment remains a shinning beacon in the constitution. And while Stevens
accomplished many important things, that was his finest legacy.