If, as the 14th Amendment states, any naturalized citizen is afforded all the same privileges and protections of the law as a natural born citizen, then doesn't this mean any citizen can run for president?

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1 (emphasis mine)

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    The constitution has supremacy over statutory law. It doesn't have supremacy over the constitution.
    – Publius
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 4:18
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    It clearly does. Look at the 21st amendment and 17th. Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 6:40
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    No, I mean 17th. Direct election of senators overrides earlier in the constitution where it says they are chosen by state legislatures. Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 17:22
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    Amendments can repeal previous parts of the constitution, but saying that citizens shall be treated equally under the law does not repeal any part of the constitution.
    – Publius
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 19:27
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    @JDoe I wanted to come back to say that I was completely wrong about this. I just took another look at the 14th Amendment, and in section 2 it expressly replaces the 3/5ths clause as the standard for apportionment.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 1:24

4 Answers 4


The 14th Amendment extends equal protection to all citizens, natural born or naturalized, so that no state can abridge their rights. Since the qualifications for president are in Article II Section I of the Constitution, that is not enforced by the states but is rather a federal power.

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    I don't think this is true becuase it says "state" in the sense of a governmental body. The supreme court has ruled that state means any state actor, which is someone acting on behalf of the state or federal government. Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 6:46
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    Except that the 14th Amendment was pretty specifically targeted at state governments that were passing legislation that contradicted the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It's since been more broadly interpreted to include the federal government, but to my knowledge it's never been used in respect to another portion of the Constitution and likely can't as Constitutional provisions aren't viewed as law made by government but as stemming from the people themselves. Without explicit repeal language, I wouldn't think the 14th Amendment would stretch. Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 7:42
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    @concernedcitizen no, it's using state to mean a state in the sense of one in the United States. It was specifically made to limit the behaviour of the states in the way the behaviour of the federal government was already limited.
    – Publius
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 19:26
  • I downvoted because this isn't even a clear answer: the question is can a naturalized citizen run for president? Sounds like Article II Section 1 and 14th conflict. The question is what holds supreme. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 2:49
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    @EvanCarroll I don't see the conflict. 14th says states can't abridge equal protection. 1st says that only people born in the US can become president. Because the 14th only limits what state and local governments can do, it doesn't change that the federal government can still treat born and naturalized citizens differently with respect to presidential eligibility.
    – Tyberius
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 17:13

Nowhere does it say that a naturalized citizen has the same privileges as a natural-born citizen.

It just says that states cannot abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens (naturalized or natural-born).

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    All men are created equal according to the Declaration of Independence
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 0:36
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    The Declaration of Independence has no legal enforcement. It is not law. It was a letter telling the King of England to piss off. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 20:25
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    @MatthewWhited would have thought slavery, poll taxes, inheritance, suffrage, land ownership and the history of inequality that plagues America would stop people from taking those words as evidence for what is anyway. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 2:55

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the PRIVILEGES or immunities of citizens of the United States"

does not apply to this scenario for 3 reasons:

The first reason has already been covered by the other answers: The section in question quite clearly and explicitly applies to the States (being the several states, not including the federal government.)

The second is that it says that they "...shall not make or enforce any law..." The Constitution is not considered to be a law in that sense (e.g. a bill passed by a legislature or the Congress.)

The third is that "the PRIVILEGES or immunities of citizens of the United States" do not include the right to run for President. That right is, rather, explicitly granted to natural-born citizens, not all citizens. It is not among the privileges or immunities granted generally to "citizens of the United States."

"...nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the EQUAL PROTECTION of the laws."

does not apply to this scenario at all. This clause means that laws which grant some protection to citizens must apply equally (and, again, the context is state laws, not the federal Constitution.) This means that a state law must protect citizens equally. That is, states can't apply lesser punishment for murdering a black person than for murdering a white person (or vice versa.) The ability to run for President is not a 'protection of the law' and certainly not of state law.

  • How is it not a privilege to be president?
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 16:47
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    @Tonepoet I didn't say it's not a privilege; I said it's not a privilege of all citizens, but rather of natural born citizens. There is nowhere in the Constitution or in any law that grants a privilege of running for President to all citizens. The privilege is reserved only to natural born citizens over the age of 35 years who have been a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 17:05
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    @reirab So according to the constitution immigrants are second-class citizens?
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 23:35
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    @PhilLello The Declaration of Independence was primarily a propaganda document to garner support for the war. Not everyone actually wanted to secede from Great Britain in the early days. The only legal consequence of it was that leading government figures of the colonies renounced their loyalty to the Crown. At any rate, the obvious meaning there was people are created with equal value, not that someone who lived most of their life in another country and still holds strong loyalty to it should be eligible to serve as the head of the government.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 3:14
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    Reirab: more than that, the Declaration does not say "all citizens are created equal," yet serving in the government is a privilege reserved to citizens, not to "all men." The argument that some greater power requiring equality of treatment could override the constitution's express limitation of the presidency to natural-born citizens just doesn't hold water (whether the greater power is the Declaration as @PhilLello would have it or the equal protection clause).
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 15:31

First, the 14th amendment often is often applied against the federal government or at least, the 5th amendment is considered its equivalent.. I'd expound on that further but it's irrelevant to the rationale of this particular answer. Moreover, my answer is still, nevertheless, "no".

Before I explain why, I would like to say that this is a good literal interpretation of the word privilege. I do so often prefer interpreting the document that way and I vaguely recall reading some compelling evidence to back that up. However, regardless, another thing that needs to be done during constitutional interpretation is seeing the Forrest despite the trees and read its provisions as whole units where applicable. If you want to take the 14th amendment to that degree of literalism, denying the abridgement of privileges contradicts the equality clause because privileges are inherently unequal by definition:

  1. A particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company or society, beyond the common advantages of other citizens. A privilege may be a particular right granted by law or held by custom, or it may be an exemption from some burden to which others are subject. The nobles of Great Britain have the privilege of being triable by their peers only. Members of parliament and of our legislatures have the privilege of exemption from arrests in certain cases. The powers of a banking company are privileges granted by the legislature.

"He pleads the legal privilege of a Roman."

"The privilege of birthright was a double portion."

The American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, published 1828

Also, if not only to prove that the literal meaning had not effectively changed since 1828 'till the ratification of the 14th amendment in 1868, I shall provide another definition:

  1. A peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor; a right or immunity not enjoyed by others or by all; special enjoyment of a good, or exemption from an evil or burden; a prerogative; advantage; franchise.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

Moreover, if we are all born equal as the Declaration of Independence claims, then the 14th amendment annuls all governmental authority because the favoritism of law, whether it is or is not justified, tips the scales in somebody's favor. Surely neither the intention, nor the effect was to implementation anarchy so such a literal interpretation must be dismissed. Thus the 14th amendment requires judicial reconciliation and the method the courts have chosen is that you get equivalent rights but only under equivalent circumstances. As my prior postulations demonstrate, this may be the only reasonable method of interpreting the amendment.

The courts apply three standards of scrutiny to determine whether the circumstances sufficiently justify overriding personal rights and although strict scrutiny (see: West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.) comes close, none are presently considered insurmountable. A matter paramount to national security will almost always override it in the courts. Consider Korematsu vs. United States, 323 U.S. 214 which is an infamous example case which permitted Japanese citizens to be sent to internment camps during W.W. II . The case is an egregious surrender of "essential liberties" of the sort Benjamin Franklin might deplore in my own opinion, however as the case has not yet been overruled, that only serves to emphasize just how trivial this objection is in comparison

A matter that is paramount to national security is just what the presidential qualifications are to the framers, especially the natural born citizen clause.

Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expresly that the Command in chief of the american army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen

A letter from John Jay to George Washington; Written July 5th, 1787

The idea here is that a person given the most supreme position of power in the government should have undivided loyalty to the nation and its people. The Natural Born Citizenship clause is there to help ensure that somebody who is a patriot from elsewhere to elsewhere does not abuse that power. The right of the people to be secure as a whole is surely more important than what is to be considered simply a privilege, rather than an essential right.


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