Struggling Toward Fairness

5: Equal Rights

Struggling Toward Fairness

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Equality through Law

Equal rights (civil rights): terms that refer to the right of every person to equal protection under the laws and equal access to society’s opportunities and public facilities

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The Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection

Equal-protection clause: forbids states from denying equal protection to citizens

Segregation in the schools:

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) banned forced segregation in schools

Little change to segregation seen 15 years later

Supreme Court encouraged busing as a solution to segregation—a highly controversial approach, with mixed results

With an end to racial busing in 2007 and white flight to the suburbs, schools have become less racially diverse

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964

All persons are entitled to equal access to public accommodations

Medium-size and large firms cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the hiring, promotion, and, wages of employees

Some forms of discrimination are still lawful

Example: church-related schools can take religion into account in hiring teachers

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The Black Civil Rights Movement

Impetus behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the black civil rights movement

Bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Resistance to the Civil Rights Act was widespread, but overt discrimination gradually ceased

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The Movement for Women’s Rights

First large and well-organized promotion of women’s rights: 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York

Fifteenth Amendment: right to vote extended to men of color, but not women

Nineteenth Amendment: right to vote extended to women

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) introduced in 1923, passed 50 years later, but failed state ratification

Other legislation:

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Title IX (1972)

Equal Credit Act of 1974

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965

Before 1965:

Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 granted blacks the vote

Blacks were disenfranchised by whites-only primaries, rigged literacy tests, and poll taxes

In the mid-1940s the Supreme Court declared that whites-only primary elections were unconstitutional

Twenty-Fourth Amendment in 1964 outlawed the poll tax

Two years later, the Supreme Court banned literacy tests

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (2)

Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed federal agents to oversee voter registration

States were prevented from creating election districts that deliberately diluted the minority vote

Weakened significantly by the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated portions of the law

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The Civil Rights Act of 1968

In 1968, Congress passed legislation addressing discrimination in housing

Prohibited redlining, the refusal of mortgages for homes in certain neighborhoods, primarily those with large black populations

Strong patterns of housing segregation are still apparent

African Americans and Hispanics still have more difficulty obtaining mortgages than whites with comparable income levels

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Affirmative Action

Affirmative action: deliberate efforts to provide full and equal opportunities in employment, education, and other areas for disadvantaged groups

For organizations receiving federal funding or contracts

Affirmative action in law:

University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978)

Adarand v. Pena (1995)

Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)

Fischer v. University of Texas (2016)

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2014)

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Women

Job-related issues

Lack of job equality

Family leave and gender pay equity are continuing problems

“Feminization of poverty”: most single-parent families are headed by women and about one in three of those families live below the poverty line

Electoral and political successes

Supreme Court

Presidential politics

Congressional seats

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Other Disadvantaged Groups (2)

LBGT community:

Formerly barred from military service and had no employment protections or rights

Such prohibitions no longer exist

Greater legal protections in some jurisdictions for transgendered

U.S. has seen a rapid swing in public opinion toward acceptance of same-sex marriage in the last two decades, particularly among younger adults

Massachusetts was the first state to permit same-sex marriage, in 2004

Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) expanded the right to all Americans

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