Third Amendment Makes Comeback

People embrace a little known amendment after recent BLM protests

by Santiago Plaza

Staff Constitutional Historian

When a group of old white men got together and drafted the Bill of Rights, they thought it was perfect. In fact, for its time, it was actually quite the piece of work! It allowed the people of the United States the freedom of speech without legal prosecution, the freedom to bear arms in case of the rise of an authoritarian government, and even protected them against the kind abuse of power in the judicial branch that was common back then. However, over time, people realized it wasn’t that perfect. In the initial ten amendments, there wasn’t anything about the people’s power to elect a president, about whether people of color or women could vote, nor even about banning alcohol and then unbanning it just for funsies! And so, the breadth of the Constitution grew and grew and grew. And with as many as 27 amendments, the American people had to pick favorites. Republicans who wanted to stay racist chose the first, while people of color who simply wanted rights chose the 13th and the 14th. However, one Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia chose the Third Amendment. 

In early June, BLM protests against police brutality spread throughout the country, and the National Guard was dispatched to quell these protests. Roughly 4,500 troops were sent to Washington D.C. which, after they realized the protests would endure, quickly ran into a problem of housing. When the soldiers came to empty hotels en masse, Mayor Boswer held a press conference and pressured Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to withdraw his troops. Although she never actually invoked the Third Amendment, the fire that coursed through the internet in the forms of memes and snarky comments was inevitable and breathtaking. 

In its wake, the Third Amendment Rights Supporters Facebook group gained a thousand members. Other similar groups rose in membership as well, such as the Third Amendment Right Fiends meme group, inspired by the John Mulaney bit about the Third Amendment on SNL. In fact, so many people were talking about it that #thirdamendment trended on TikTok, generating 1.1 million views. The societal awareness of this amendment would’ve made James Madison cry a single happy tear. Believe me, I saw Hamilton.

The Third Amendment has lain dormant and forgotten for almost 200 years with only a few exceptions. In fact, the only time a federal court has ever applied the Third Amendment was in the ruling of Engblom v. Carey in 1982, when, according to Medium, “…New York State correction officers went on strike and objected when the United States housed the National Guard in their barracks.” And even in that ruling, the government was granted qualified immunity because the court ruled they didn’t know the consequences of their actions. The Third Amendment is so routinely ignored that something like this had never even been considered by the very party that created it.

This past summer has served to remind us not only to not allow the National Guard to enter our hotels, but also to learn all of our rights, for we never know when they’ll be needed.

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