Part of the second clause of the 14th amendment reads:

when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

However, in light of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, this seems to now be a weird restriction based on a criterion of male-ness that is no longer applicable to voting rights.

Has the 19th amendment had any effect on how this section of the 14th amendment is interpreted?

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    At first glance, this would seem to apply to slaves, who couldn't vote. But I don't think they were considered citizens. There was a separate provision for American Indians. The only way I could imagine trying to apply it today would be to claim that a state had unreasonably difficult voter registration procedures, and the representation of the state should be reduced. But any such attempt would cause a huge controversy and would be very hard to carry out. Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 13:10
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    I don't think that section ever has been interpreted, since it would only come up if an attempt to reduce a state's representation has been made, and that's never happened. There may be precedents elsewhere which have re-interpreted all "male" statements to gender neutral ones. Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 14:53
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    @GerardAshton the 14th amendment was passed to grant civil rights to former slaves after slavery was abolished. The whole point of the passage was to (attempt to) motivate states not to disenfranchise freed slaves. This was in 1868, three years after the end of the war. Scott: the same question might be asked about the 26th amendment.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 20:07
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    @Scott, the clause includes the phrase "except for participation in rebellion, or other crime". A felony would be an "other crime". Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 10:55

1 Answer 1


It would be interpreted if a gender neutral way

All such gendered pronouns and descriptions in the Constitution (such as referring to the President As “he”) carry no gender restrictions in modern jurisprudence.

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    Is there any case law to back up this claim?
    – Him
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 8:04
  • @Scott: None dare test it.
    – Joshua
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 16:44
  • @Joshua, did you intend your comment in jest, or do you have depth of knowledge of related case law to substantiate such a claim? I would imagine that such a thing must have been at the very least opined on by justices during, e.g, the years immediately pre/proceeding the passage of the 19th amendment. I would be interested to know what those opinions might be.
    – Him
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 19:35
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    @Joshua but this is just speculation on your part, yes, not information derived from a study of the literature and existing case law?
    – Him
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 21:33
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    There's a big difference between saying "he" (which can be interpreted as referring to people of all genders; generic "he" was actually quite common in the past, although it's considered non-gender-neutral nowadays), and the language at question here, which refers specifically to "male inhabitants of [a] State".
    – Vikki
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 15:50

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