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Civil Rights Act of 1964

Michael Cain
ELA2603 - Administrative and Personnel Law
Professor Zara Sette
August 17, 2012
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the nation's benchmark civil rights legislation, and it continues to resonate in America. The basic tenants of this legislation prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and other protected classes as amended. Passage of the Act ended the application of "Jim Crow" laws, which had been upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Court held that racial segregation purported to be "separate but equal" was constitutional. The Civil Rights Act was eventually expanded by Congress to strengthen enforcement of these fundamental civil rights (United States Senate - Committee of the Judiciary).
In the 1960s, Americans who knew only the potential of "equal protection of the laws" expected the nations political leaders and the courts to fulfill the promise and guarantee of the 14th Amendment. In response, all three branches of the federal government, as well as the public at large, debated a fundamental constitutional question: Does the Constitution's prohibition of denying equal protection always ban the use of racial, ethnic, or gender criteria in an attempt to bring social justice and social benefits (National Archives, 2012)? The simple answer is no.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964
In 1964 Congress passed Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. The word "sex" was added at the last moment. According to the West Encyclopedia of American Law, Representative Howard W. Smith (D-VA) added the word. His critics argued that Smith, a conservative Southern opponent of federal civil rights, did so to kill the entire...

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