Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

American Government
PS1301 – 164
Civil Rights
• Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties
• Basis in the 14th Amendment to the
• Civil Rights Movement
• Other types of policy
– Affirmative action
– Emerging civil rights
September 11 and Civil Rights
• What impact have the terrorist attacks
had on civil rights in the United
• Debate on racial profiling
• What are the issues and why are they
What’s the difference?
• Civil Rights:
– Protections enforced by government power.
• Positive rights—require government action to
ensure observance.
• Government must act to guarantee equal rights:
ie., 14th & 15th amendment, Brown V. Board of
• Civil rights issues arise under “equal protection of
the laws” clause of Constitution.
What’s the Difference
• Civil Liberties:
– Constitutional protections from improper
government encroachment.
• Negative Rights: Restricts governmental actions.
• Ex. Bill of Rights: Chalk full of “Thou shall nots”.
– Civil liberty issues arise under the “due
process of law” clause of the constitution.
Modern Day Civil Rights
• Modern day “civil rights” include
safeguards against any effort by
government or dominant groups in a
community to subjugate another group
and take unfair, mostly economic,
advantage of it.
• The concept has advanced well beyond
the “civic” rights of colonial America.
Contemporary Interpretation
• Civil rights refers to the equality of all
people, regardless of:
– Race, ethnicity, or national origin
– Religion
– Gender
– Sexual orientation
– Age
– Disability
– Disease (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer)
– Weight, etc.
Civil Rights and the 14th
• •“All persons born or naturalized in the
United States … are citizens of the United
States … No state shall … deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.”
• The basic concept is political and legal
But does not guarantee complete
Discrimination on the basis of achievement
& behavior is allowable
• – Universities may reward academic merit
• – Employers may hire the best qualified
• – Laws may punish people who are felons
• – Income taxes may discriminate on the
basis of a
• person’s income
Civil Rights Movement
• The 1964 Civil Rights Act
• The Voting Rights Act of 1965
• This aggressive law authorized the Justice Department to
suspend restrictive electoral tests in southern states that had
a history of low black turnout.
• Federal officers could be sent into the state to register voters
• States also had to obtain clearance from the Justice
Department before changing their election laws.
Other examples of Civil Rights
Policy - Affirmative Action
• Affirmative action was the means used by
the government to redress past
discrimination in employment.
• This policy requires any employers or
government agencies that have practiced
discrimination to compensate minorities by
giving them special consideration in their
selection for employment and education.
Affirmative Action
• This policy is most controversial when applied to
– Government contracting,
– University admissions to increase minority
– Employment policies to promote minority
presence and advancement in business and
the professions.
• Notion of quotas quickly rejected by the Court
and the public. Still, controversy persists.
Affirmative Action
• The contentious politics for and against
affirmative action have revolved around
“preferential” criteria.
• This criteria gives minorities some advantage in
university admissions, employment, and
government contracts without imposing
numerical quotas.
• While a majority of Americans support special
assistance for minorities subjected to past
discrimination, a majority also draws the line at
affirmative action.
Emerging Rights
• Americans with Disabilities Act bars
discrimination in employment, transportation,
public accommodation, and telecommunications
against persons with physical and mental
• Elderly with help of the American Association of
Retired Persons have worked to end mandatory
• Can you name some other groups waiting in the
Emerging Rights
• Two recent cases illustrate problems courts
confront in trying to implement the ADA.
• In 1999 the Court ruled that an airline that only
hired pilots with 20/20 vision could reject those
who required corrective lenses. They had filed
their suit under ADA utilizing their eyesight as a
disability. But the Court said that because it
could be corrected it was not a disability, so the
law did not apply.
Emerging Rights
• In 2001, the Court decided that a golfer
with an atrophied leg could use a golf cart
on the PGA tour despite a rule forbidding
one. (PGA Tour, Inc vs. Casey Martin)
• Walking, the Court said, was not
“fundamental” to the game.