Civil Rights Act of 1964

Civil Rights Act of 1964
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn act to enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States of America to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 88-352
Statutes at Large78 241
Codification
Acts amended
Titles amendedTitle 42—Public Health And Welfare
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 7152 by Emanuel Celler (DNY) on June 20, 1963
  • Committee consideration by Judiciary
  • Passed the House on February 10, 1964[1] (290–130)
  • Passed the Senate on June 19, 1964[2] (73–27) with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on July 2, 1964[3] (289–126)
  • Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964
Major amendments
United States Supreme Court cases

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (88–352, 78 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.[4] It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.

Initially, powers given to enforce the act were weak, but these were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

The legislation had been proposed by President John F. Kennedy in June 1963, but opposed by filibuster in the Senate. After Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the bill forward, which in its final form was passed in the U.S. Congress by a Senate vote of 73–27 and House vote of 289–126. The Act was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964, at the White House.

Background

In the 1883 landmark Civil Rights Cases the United States Supreme Court had ruled, that Congress did not have the power to prohibit discrimination in the private sector, thus stripping the Civil Rights Act of 1875 of much of its ability to protect civil rights.[5]

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the legal justification for voiding the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was part of a larger trend by members of the United States Supreme Court to invalidate most government regulations of the private sector, except when dealing with laws designed to protect traditional public morality.

John F. Kennedy addresses the nation about civil rights on June 11, 1963

In the 1930s, during the New Deal, the majority of the Supreme Court justices gradually shifted their legal theory to allow for greater government regulation of the private sector under the commerce clause, thus paving the way for the Federal government to enact civil rights laws prohibiting both public and private sector discrimination on the basis of the commerce clause.

The 1964 bill was first proposed by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in his Report to the American People on Civil Rights on June 11, 1963.[6] Kennedy sought legislation "giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments"—as well as "greater protection for the right to vote". Kennedy delivered this speech in the aftermath of the Birmingham campaign and the growing number of demonstrations and protests throughout the southern United States. Kennedy was moved to action following the elevated racial tensions and wave of black riots in the spring 1963.[7]

Emulating the Civil Rights Act of 1875, Kennedy's civil rights bill included provisions to ban discrimination in public accommodations, and to enable the U.S. Attorney General to join in lawsuits against state governments which operated segregated school systems, among other provisions. However, it did not include a number of provisions deemed essential by civil rights leaders, including protection against police brutality, ending discrimination in private employment, or granting the Justice Department power to initiate desegregation or job discrimination lawsuits.[8]

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