Today is a grand day in the struggle for equal rights in this country. July 2, exactly 50 years ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law at the White House by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The bill was first called for by then President John F. Kennedy in January of 1963. To say that it was a landmark piece of legislation is slightly underselling it. The act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin. It also effectively ended voter registration requirements for almost 50 years and prevented racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and at facilities said to serve the general public.
Initially, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was somewhat toothless, but enforcements were fortified substantially over the years. Congress has used its words to legislate it under various parts of the United States Constitution. In particular, its power to guarantee all citizens equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, its duties to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment, and its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (Section 8). Afterwards, additional Civil Rights legislation followed over the years; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Many Americans of all different races, ethnic backgrounds and genders have benefitted from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
However, the fight for inclusion in the United States is still an ongoing affair. On June 25, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that key portions of the Voting Rights Act were unconstitutional in a 5-to-4 ruling. This allowed nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without prior knowledge by the federal government. This is but one example to illustrate the fact that the fight for civil rights in America is ongoing and that no power is ever conceded without a fight. Such legislation falls into and out of favor largely based upon who is in the White House and who is on Capitol Hill. The current fight between the first black president, Obama, and the opposing largely white Republican Party have been glaring reasons for the backwards walk in American civil rights.
2014 is currently bearing witness to yet another civil rights struggle. One in which sexual orientation is the key factor. With the greater acceptance of same sex marriage and gender ambiguity in the greater cultural scheme of things, one can be certain that additional provisions will be made to strengthen pass measures of civil rights legislation to include additional protections to this minority of individuals who are only recently gaining governmental recognition and broader societal respect.
We may have come a long way. But we still have so far to go. God, please bless America.