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HeinOnline Civil Rights

Topic Overview

What Are Civil Rights?

Civil Rights

  • ensure protection from discrimination based on:
    • race
    • gender
    • sexual orientation
    • national origin or ethnicity
    • religion
    • age
    • disability

Not to be confused with civil liberties.

  • these are basic freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights and Constitution. Examples include:
    • right to free speech
    • right to privacy
    • right to remain silent during police interrogation
    • right to a fair trial

Major Constitutional Protections for Civil Rights

Thirteenth Amendment

  • ratified in 1865
  • abolished slavery and involuntary servitude except for persons convicted of a crime

Fourteenth Amendment

  • ratified in 1868
  • “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”
  • granted citizenship to all persons born in the United States
  • afforded due process protections against state and local governments

Fifteenth Amendment

  • ratified in 1870
  • prohibits governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”


Major Legislation

Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • signed by President Johnson
  • outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
  • contains 11 titles regulating voting, the workplace, public schools, and public accommodations (ex. retail stores, recreational facilities, hotels, rental properties)

Voting Rights Act of 1965

  • signed by President Johnson
  • provided robust enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments
  • created a coverage formula for determining jurisdictions that are subject to additional special provisions
  • these special provisions are for the most historically discriminatory jurisdictions by mandating that certain states receive federal preclearance before changing their voting laws
    • coverage formula was repealed in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder

American with Disabilities Act of 1990

  • signed by President George H.W. Bush
  • structurally modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • covers both physical and mental disabilities
  • prohibits discrimination  based on disability  in all areas of public life
  • requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to covered employees to allow them to do their jobs
  • sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of public facilities and directs businesses to make reasonable accommodations to serve people with disabilities
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