The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, public facilities, federally-assisted programs, and other areas. In most of these, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which deals with employment discrimination, adds sex as a protected category. Over the years, Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination has been expanded to include sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. One has to wonder, though—how did sex end up in Title VII as a protected category, if it’s not anywhere else in the law? Join me for a historical odyssey into the realm of unintended—but awesome—consequences.
President Lyndon B. Johnson was adamant about getting the Civil Rights Act passed. It would prove to be one of the signature achievements of his time in office, and the major event that sparked the reshuffling of party positions*.
Last Friday, the City of Cleveland answered the wrongful death/civil rights lawsuit filed by Tamir Rice’s family, and part of its defense has caused much anger and consternation, especially to non-lawyers. I find just about everything about the Cleveland PD’s actions in this case—and those of their supporters—to be infuriating, but from my perspective as a lawyer, the defense outlined in their answer seemed like pretty standard legal language to me:
The city, in its response, wrote that Tamir’s death on Nov. 22 and all of the injuries his family claims in the suit “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant.” It also says that the 12-year-old’s shooting death was caused “by the failure … to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
The response does not explain these defenses in more detail, though 20 defenses are listed in all, including another one that says Tamir died because of “the conduct of individuals or entities other than Defendant.”
If you read the city’s answer, linked in the blockquote above (and also here), you’ll see that the quoted portions come from the city’s “affirmative defenses” on page 38, which read as follows: Continue reading
Tiptoeing Around the Civil Rights Act, Adam Lee, Daylight Atheism, September 3, 2014
The Civil Rights Act is an abiding dilemma for members of the right-wing Church of Not Gay. As marriage equality continues to progress, their latest cause celebre is arguing that believers should have the right to refuse service to gay couples – whether they be photographers, bakers, owners of wedding venues, even county clerks – all in the name, supposedly, of “religious liberty”, which they believe should be a trump card allowing holders to opt out of any generally applicable law.
The problem, from their perspective, is that the historical parallel is too raw and too obvious: it wasn’t that long ago that many business owners also demanded the right to refuse service to black people (and, yes, claimed a religious justification for doing so). From both a legal and a cultural standpoint, this argument has already been settled: business owners who offer a public accommodation can’t pick and choose their customers on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race, gender, or sexuality.
‘Sexual Liberty’ and Religious Freedom, Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, September 5, 2014 Continue reading