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What Are Fundamental Rights? - Definition, Types & Features

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  • 0:01 Fundamental Right Defined
  • 0:42 Types of Fundamental Rights
  • 1:21 Features of Fundamental Rights
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco
This lesson will discuss an individual's fundamental rights. There will be a discussion about the types of fundamental rights as well as the features of fundamental rights.

Fundamental Rights Defined

Bailey and Ryan were planning to be married. Bailey had often wondered how couples were given the right to marry. After she completed some research, Bailey found that it was her fundamental right to get married. But what exactly is a fundamental right?

Fundamental rights are a group of rights that the Supreme Court recognizes as being fair and legal, and are also rights that are listed within the Bill of Rights. Not only are fundamental rights covered by the Bill of Rights, but each state constitution can also have fundamental rights. Let's take a closer look at some examples of fundamental rights.

Types of Fundamental Rights

There are several types of fundamental rights. The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment are considered Fundamental Rights. These rights include:

  • The right to due process
  • The right to freedom of speech
  • The right to freedom of religion
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to marry
  • The right to interstate and intrastate travel
  • The right to equality
  • The right to assemble
  • And the right to bear arms

Specifically, the right to marry is not mentioned in the Constitution but it is considered a fundamental right. We can examine these rights closer and look at why they are considered fundamental.

Features of Fundamental Rights

As citizens of the U.S., we are given the right to due process. The right to due process is part of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Should we be facing criminal charges, we have the right to be treated fairly. The Fourteenth Amendment ensures citizens the right to life, liberty, and property. A citizen must be given a fair chance to prove their innocence. A feature of the right to due process, under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, is that the government does not have the ability to take away our life, liberty, or property without due process.

Some of the most widely-known fundamental rights are covered in the First Amendment. As citizens of the U.S., we have rights that allow us to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to assemble. The feature to these rights is that they cannot be taken away from us. They are clearly stated in the First Amendment and are undeniably our rights.

Now that we have looked at a few of the written fundamental rights, let's look at the fundamental rights that are not in black and white. One of the unwritten rights includes the right to marry. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. citizens have the right to liberty, which includes the right to marry.

Another unwritten fundamental right is the right to privacy, which isn't specifically mentioned in the Constitution. What exactly does the right to privacy entail? Well, in 1965, the State of Connecticut tried to prohibit the use of any type of contraceptives, but in Griswold vs. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that it was a governmental intrusion to ban contraceptives. This law would have been a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The feature of the right to privacy is that it is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but the Supreme Court recognizes our rights to privacy.

Lesson Summary

Fundamental rights are a group of rights that the Supreme Court recognizes as being fair and legal, and are also rights that are listed within the Bill of Rights. These rights are both written and unwritten, and they include:

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