Civil rights are those rights that are bestowed by the government on the people as opposed to civil liberties, which the citizens have by virtue of their citizenship.
Examples of civil rights include protection from discrimination based on race or gender and the right to privacy.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
In Dred Scott v. Sandford, a slave sued his master claiming that he'd been taken into a non-slaveholding federal territory and was thus free. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that persons of African descent were not citizens under the Constitution and thus had no standing to sue.
As a corollary, Scott v. Sandford struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional.
What test applies when the Supreme Court examines laws that infringe on a fundamental constitutional right (such as those found in the Bill of Rights), or when a law applies to a "suspect classification" (such as race or national origin)?
In these contexts, the Court employs a strict scrutiny standard. To meet the standard, the law or policy must:
- serve a compelling government interest
- be narrowly tailored to serve that interest
- be the least restrictive means to serve that interest
Although the Bill of Rights Amendments only applied to the federal government at the time they were written, what constitutional amendment applied the vast majority of them to state and local governments?
As decided in a number of Supreme Court cases, the Bill of Rights was applied (incorporated) to the states pursuant to the 14th Amendment.
For instance, in Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the Supreme Court incorporated the Fourth Amendment to the states.
The _____ _____ Clause of the 14th Amendment requires that the protection given by state law shall be equal to all citizens.
Between the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 14th Amendment, Southern states had enacted black codes, which barred blacks from sitting on juries, forming contracts, or holding certain types of property. The Equal Protection Clause rendered these black codes unconstitutional.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
Plessy v. Ferguson arose because a railroad provided separate passenger cars for black and white passengers, pursuant to Louisiana law. The Court held that providing "separate but equal" facilities was constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.
Beginning with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Court would later overturn the separate but equal doctrine.
Which Supreme Court case overturned the separate but equal doctrine as established in Plessy v. Ferguson?
The separate but equal doctrine was overturned in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In Brown, the Court held that separate educational facilities for black and white children violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
What did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred disrimination in all public accomodations (e.g. hotels and restaurants) based on race, color, religion, or national origin, and prohibited state and local governments from denying access to public facilities based on these same criteria.
Title VII of the act prohibited discrmination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Which piece of legislation established extensive federal oversight over elections?
Extensive federal oversight of elections was established in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Historically, Southern states had used literacy tests to prevent blacks from voting. The act outlawed this practice.
It also required states with a history of voting discrimination to submit all changes in voting practices to the Department of Justice for clearance before they were implemented.
What type of tax was prohibited by the 24th Amendment, which was ratified in 1964?
The 24th Amendment prohibits poll taxes. A poll tax is a tax that is required to be paid prior to voting and was commonly used to disenfranchise blacks in the South.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prevents discriminatory practices in _____.
Specifically the act prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, and national origin. The act was amended in 1974 to prohibit gender discrimination and in 1988 to extend protections to families with children and disabled persons.
Affirmative action refers to overt policies to ensure that educational opportunities and employment are offered to minorities and women.
Affirmative action occassionally takes the form of a quota system. The Supreme Court struck down a University of California system that reserved a certain number of seats for minorities in Regents v. Bakke (1978) and a system that awarded extra admissions points to minorities in Gratz v. Bollinger (2003).
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978)
In Regents v. Bakke, the University of California had reserved 16 out of 100 places for incoming minority medical students and accepted lower admissions standards for those students. The Court held that while affirmative action systems were constitutionally permissable, race-based quota systems were not.
Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
In Grutter, the Court reviewed the University of Michigan's law school admissions policy, which considered race as one of a number of factors in the admissions process. The Court held that the race-concious admissions process did not equate to a quota system and was thus constitutionally permissable.
Women gained the right to vote in national elections by the passage of which amendment?
The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, prohibited discrimination in voting on the basis of sex. Prior to the amendment's passage, a number of states had extended the franchise to women.
What conduct was barred by the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963?
The Equal Pay Act prohibits paying men and women different wages for jobs performed under similar working conditions and that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility.
People with mental or physical impairment are protected from discrimination in housing and employment by the _____ _____ _____ Act.
Americans with Disabilities
The act, passed in 1990, provided similar protection against discrimination as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which had prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin.
In Romer v. Evans (1996), the Court was faced with a challenge to a Colorado State Constitutional Amendment, which prohibited the state from extending protected status for homosexuals and bisexuals. How did the Court respond?
The Court struck down the amendment as unconstitutional under the rational basis test, holding that it was not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
Justice Kennedy wrote that the amendment imposed a special disability upon homosexuals and bisexuals, forbidding them from the safeguards that others could seek without constraint.
Which Supreme Court case made same-sex sexual activity legal in all states?
In Lawrence v. Texas (2003) the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that criminalized sodomy. The Court held that the law violated the privacy and liberty rights of individuals pursuant to the 14th Amendment.
In 1996, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). What did DOMA establish?
The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution would require one state to give full faith and credit to a same-sex marriage entered into in a state that allowed same-sex couples to marry. DOMA lifted this requirement, holding that states could continue to choose whether or not to recognize marriage between partners of the same sex.
What landmark legislation prevented the military from discrminating against homosexuals serving in the military?
In 1993, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went into effect, and barred the military from inquiring into a person's sexual orientation as a precondition of service. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" also required that homosexuals not reveal their sexual orientation, or risk dismissal from the service.
In 2011 the policy was revoked, and openly gay men and women may now serve in the military.