Why could a Colorado baker in 2018 Supreme Court case claim the Constitution protects him from a State government, but a Louisiana butcher in 1869 could not? The baker won his case likely by claiming to be a U.S. citizen (a federal citizen), rather than a Colorado Citizen (a State Citizen). This might seem confusing to people who don’t know the difference between a federal U.S. citizen and a State Citizen.
A federal citizen is someone from Puerto Rico or other territories and possessions of the USA and also a descendant of freed slaves, due to the 14th Amendment. In contrast, a State Citizen is someone who was born on the land of one of the Union States or who was naturalized as a State Citizen. (I’m not going to cover naturalization. Also, a State Citizen may need to have a mom and dad who are State Citizens.)
In the recent Colorado case, the baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because the baker felt the cake was an artistic expression, or speech, and that the First Amendment to the Constitution prevented the State Government from interfering with his right to engage or not engage in free speech. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
This was not the case of the butchers in Louisiana. In the 1869 Slaughterhouse cases, the Louisiana legislature passed a law requiring all animal slaughter to occur in specified areas of the state and by specified slaughterhouses. Many butchers sued the State and said the 14th Amendment protects them from State statutes (please read the case for specifics).
In the Slaughterhouse cases, the Supreme Court ruled against the butchers. The court said the 14th amendment does not protect State Citizens. The court said the 14th Amendment was passed to protect the recently freed negroes [their words] only. The State Citizens had to rely on their historical rights protected under the State Constitution.
In the Slaughterhouse Cases opinion the court stated that the 14th Amendment only applies to the ‘negro race’ and protects them from ‘hostile’ State governments.
“The first clause of the fourteenth article was primarily intended to confer citizenship on the negro race, and secondly to give definitions of citizenship of the United States and citizenship of the States, and it recognizes the distinction between citizenship of a State and citizenship of the United States by those definitions.
The second clause protects from the hostile legislation of the States the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, as distinguished from the privileges and immunities of citizens of the States.”
The Louisiana butchers from 1869, who evidently were not formerly freed slaves, and who were likely born Louisiana State Citizens, could not use the 14th Amendment to stop the Louisiana State government.
For the butcher, the Supreme Court stated he can only rely on the protections in the state constitution:
“If, then, there is a difference between the privileges and immunities belonging to a citizen of the United States as such and those belonging to the citizen of the State as such, the latter must rest for their security and protection where they have heretofore rested, for they are not embraced by this paragraph of the amendment.”
However, the baker, by mistakenly stating he is a U.S. citizen, was able to use the 14th Amendment to stop the Colorado State government. The baker was mistaken because he is likely a State Citizen, even though he may have claimed to be a U.S. citizen, but a false claim cannot magically turn him into a federal citizen.
The Constitution restricts the power of the Federal Government for both federal citizens and State Citizens, but can only restrict the power of a State Government if the man or woman is a federal citizen.
The baker won his battle but lost the war. Yes, he has stopped the State government from interfering with his free expression rights, but now he is completely subject to the Federal government and all of its Statutes. For example, a Colorado State Citizen may use cannabis [marijuana], but since the baker claims to be a federal citizen, he must follow federal statutes and cannot use cannabis. [Note: i don’t have an opinion on using cannabis.]
Since Supreme Court justices and many other people in governments seem to assume people are federal citizens, if I don’t want to be subject to the federal government, I have to explicitly say that I am a State Citizen.
I may also have to explicitly say that the ‘state’ is a Union state and not a federal corporate state. A federal state may refer to federal territory within a Union state. I believe there can be, for example, Ohio, the Union State, and Ohio, the term designating the federal territory within the Union State, which may not be conterminous. The two-letter abbreviation ‘CO’ is the federal area within the borders of Colorado. CO is not Colorado, the State.
Federal citizens are subject to the municipal powers of the federal government. Federal citizens, I believe, are taxed on all their earnings, whether it is within or without the United States, meaning federal territory. The baker does not have to serve same-sex couples but he does have to pay federal tax on any earnings, even if they are not related to federal activity.
Rather than petition the supreme court as a U.S. citizen, he might have been better off moving to a state that does respect the right freedom of religion and freedom of expression. One needs to read the State constitution to see what is guaranteed.
An important question is if the baker is not of the negro race, why did the Supreme Court allow him to cite the 14th Amendment? The only other way to become a U.S. (federal) citizen is via naturalization. I doubt the baker did this. And I doubt the Supreme Court asked him to confirm this.
- Slaughter Houses case
- Baker case – Masterpiece Bakeshop
- Search for ‘State Citizen’ on this site
- 14th Amendment