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What are the civil rights issues of today?

By John Vettese, Student Voices staff writer

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the impact was felt across the nation. More than simply a document written in legal language, the ruling was a catalyst that sparked a movement: the civil rights movement.

In Brown, the court decided that the “separate but equal” doctrine was inherently unequal; it violated the 14th Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.” The country’s public schools, some of which made a practice of separating black students from white students, were officially required to desegregate. This inspired citizens around the nation to rally against all forms of institutionalized racial discrimination – from voting rights to equal access to public services to workplace rights.

In the decades that followed, significant progress was made, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a law banning all forms of racial discrimination – and the appointment of the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, in 1967.

And the movement didn’t stop there. What are some contemporary civil rights issues?

Women’s Struggle for Equality

When women were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment in 1920, they weren’t suddenly elevated to a level playing field with men. Inequality and discrimination continued, particularly in the workplace. After Brown, the women’s movement turned to the 14th Amendment in its fight for equal rights. The Supreme Court case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in 2006 brought into focus the wage gap – the statistical 80 cents on each dollar that women are paid now compared to men. Although the Supreme Court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter (based on its interpretation of the statue of limitations to file a lawsuit), Congress later passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, giving women more leeway to fight discriminatory pay.

Gay Rights, from ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to Marriage

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is also prevalent today. Ironically, one of the laws viewed as discriminatory – the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – was intended as a progressive act. Signed into law by President Bill Clinton, it allowed gays to serve in the military. But they could do so only if they did not divulge their sexual orientation, and their commanding officers were prevented from asking about it. As it played out, the law was criticized for forcing gay military personnel to conceal their sexual identities, effectively living a lie to serve their country. In 2010, a federal judge ruled it violated the First Amendment right of free speech because gays could not openly discuss their sexual orientation and the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. This month, repeal of the policy took effect, but the battle for equality continues on other fronts. The right of same-sex couples to marry has been an intense debate for the last decade and a half. Advocates say the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause guarantees gays and lesbians the right to marry. The Obama administration has said it will no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act – the 1996 law defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman – meaning the issue is entirely in the hands of the states. Some states, such as Vermont, Iowa, New York and Massachusetts, have passed laws allowing gay marriage. Other states allow civil unions for same-sex couples, and others still have passed outright bans – most recently California’s voter-approved referendum Proposition 8, which is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Americans with Disabilities

The right to equal facilities and equal access for Americans with disabilities is not based in the Constitution but is a federal mandate. Before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it wasn’t required that public buildings, schools and workplaces have curb cut-outs and ramps for people in wheelchairs. A key problem with the ADA, however, was that many people had a very narrow view of “disabilities” – wheelchairs – and the law in practice wound up limiting the rights of other people it was trying to protect. In 2008, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act, broadening the language of the law to make it clear that the word “disability” refers to any impairment, physical or mental, that limits the activities a person is able to participate in.

Immigration Rights

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the country became more suspicious of and resistant to immigrants. The issue of illegal immigration became a hot topic in the media, as well as in political debate, and states began passing tough laws targeting illegal immigrants. But even if someone is in the United States illegally, the Supreme Court ruled over a century ago in Yick Wo v. Hopkins that noncitizens are also covered by the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

What do you think?

What are the civil rights issues of today? What can the federal government do to better protect the rights of women? Should the federal government be involved in protecting the rights of gay citizens? Should the Americans with Disabilities Act be broadened further? Should illegal immigrants receive equal protection of our laws? Join the discussion!
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Comments
4/8/2014
Jemez Springs, New Mexico
Miranda
Jemez Valley High
I think that is Gay marriage was so bad and they say "Its against god's will" Then how come it isn't in the bible? I mean if you love someone then love them. Who cares if they are the same sex or not. My mom always told me "Follow your heart. Fall in love with who ever. Doesn't matter what they are male or female. As long as they love you too." Why would anyone care. My opinion is that it is beautiful. So all those people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Let it go! Let it show! Be proud of who you are! Don't let anyone hold you back.

3/26/2014
Roanoke
Ben
Mrs Lacoste
Well, Japensesee so its like the army dont ask dont tell you now what i aying

3/17/2014
LittleRock/Ar
Kyera
Mrs.Wright/LisaAcademy
Well I think this was a great way to explain Civil Rights issues of today.

3/17/2014
Claremont, CA
Ronnie
Ranney/ Claremont High
honestly i dont understand why society doesnt want to accept that people who are different. it's really upsetting to me that homosexual and trasngendered arent able to enjoy things that people who are hetersexual are to do. theyre denied the right to do things like for example, compete for miss universe or get married, and same sex marriage is really big one right now. i think that everyone should have the right to get married to who they want to regaurdless of gender. I'm so happy that some parts of the US are actually legalizing same sex marriages. i really hope that our society will make it legal in all parts of the US and like other parts of the world too

3/3/2014
Alabama
Precious
Gargia Wagshton
A good way to lean about our history!

2/28/2014
Columbus, OH
DaViont Bradford
Columbus City Schools
Im a winner

2/28/2014
Savannah ga
Gracie
STEM@bartlett
(don't take anything the wrong way) People have no right to discriminate against people who do something different like gay marriage. They can't help who they are...they can't help what they do! People who discriminate against people are just plain wrong. I belive in god, I belive that it's not exactly right BUT I want people to be who they are, I want them to be proud of it. They don't need to bottle it up. Let who you are shine??

2/28/2014
Savannah
Gaea
Ms. Thornton
I believe that gays should have equality no matter what people say take the show The Fosters for example there are to women who are lesbians and they are discriminated everyday but they know how they feel and no one can take them away from them.

2/28/2014
Savannah
Sarah
Miss Thornton
Discrimination. Based on sexual orientation is wrong. If the laws were pasted for. No gay couples, and you were a gay, you would feel horrible. People have right and people need to respect that. Even though gayness may be against some religions, there is not just one religion in the world

2/28/2014
chillicothe ohio
whitney dement
chillicothe high school
This is amazing

2/27/2014
West Columbia, SC
Lacy
Stevens Henager
I think that everyone should be protected. Why should someones sexual preference be any of your concern? You think that if gays are able to adopt then they will just raise gay children, think again. Most gays come from a heterosexual home. We are all gods children made in his image. That's what I was taught anyways. Think about that for a minute before you discriminate.

2/12/2014
Little Rock ar
Gerardo
mrs. wright lisa west
I think that everyone should have their own right who cares if their gay or not they don't bother anyone and even if it did theres nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian

2/5/2014
Little rock
Aisha
Lisa Academy West
I think Saida is correct. We are all the same and we should be treated with equality as said in popular speeches. We all deserve freedom. So I think gay marriage should be protected.

2/3/2014
Arkansas
saida
Mrs.Wright
I think gay marriage should be protected . I know it might be against some religions , but deep down inside we're all the same .We also deserve to be treated the same .we are all human being gay is not a disease. If you weren't able to love who want to . It makes them feel horrible. What i'm basically trying to say here is that we are all equal and all deserve to be treated equally.

2/3/2014
Arkansas
saida
Mrs.Wright
I think gay marriage should be protected . I know it might be against some religions , but deep down inside we're all the same .We also deserve to be treated the same .we are all human being gay is not a disease. If you weren't able to love who want to . It makes them feel horrible. What i'm basically trying to say here is that we are all equal and all deserve to be treated equally.

2/3/2014
Little Rock/ AR
Nand
Wright/ Lisa West
The us constitution says that Americans have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If marriage of your same gender makes people happy, it should be allowed. On the other hand, if murder made you happy, that doesn't mean you can do it because it is illegal. I really dont know what to say about this matter, so these are both sides of the story

2/2/2014
Little Rock Arkansas
COLE
mrs. Wright/Lisa academy west
The Ten Commandments don't actually say that there can't be gay Marriage and nobody actually truly knows what they say.

2/1/2014
Little Rock, AR
Jahnavi
Mrs.Wright/ LISA West
I totally agree with Audrey, Happiness is everything. But not having American origin, I know the country I'm from probably does not allow same-gender marriage in both male and female.About Women's Struggle for Equality, I didn't know women still have to fight for rights! Women deserve the same rights as men, not just in the U.S, but everywhere in the world. Without women, men would be no where.

2/1/2014
Little rock AR
Mir
Lisa west
I dont think gays should be protected. Their actions may be disgusting but it may be against many religions. If a gay family goes to a place to a restraunt with other children in it, it would look bad in front of them. Gays and lesbians would increase which wouldn't be so good, in my opinion, gays should not be protected. This should not happen??

1/31/2014
Chicago/IL
Brandi
Lundgren
Hey! MM, homosexuality is BIOLOGICAL. so if gays where given BACK their right to marry and adopt children, they wouldn't "turn gay" and make the whole world gay. and yes, everything you described is you being homophobic, which is not biological, but a choice. Learn from our ancestors in Little Rock, how the thought African Americans shouldn't have been allowed to integrate in "their" schools and that they would make their children "dirty".

1/30/2014
little rock, Ar
MM
Wright
Marrage allows a person to have more freedom such as, adopting, will, and 'insurace shares'. So if 2 gays became married they would have these right too, including adopting. If two gays adopt a child that child would be raised to be gay also increasing the gay population, personally i wouldnt want to live aruond a lot of gays, one might ending up liking you. I have nothing against gays but I dont one all on me!

1/30/2014
Little Rock
Ryan
Lisa West
some people could be happy blowing things up, but just because they are happy, doesnt mean that the government would allow it. same with gay marriage, its illegal in some places, and it makes people happy, but the government wont stand for that.

1/30/2014
Little Rock
Shahroz
Lisa West
Gays shouldnt get protected. The actions are disgusting. In this world men are suppose to be with woman not their own gender. Probably all religions say that you cant get married to your own gender. Yet they make gay churches and such. This is why I think gays and lesbians should not be protected in any state.

1/30/2014
little rock, AR
Audrey
LISA west
Our constitution says that Americans are able to pursue happiness,so if gay marriage makes them happy, let them have it.

1/29/2014
Little Rock
Ryan
Lisa West
Gays shouldnt get protected. Not only are there actions disgusting, but also unbiblical. in the Ten Commandments, it says that a man shall not lay down with another man, neither shall a woman do the same. they say its okay, and that they were born that way and couldnt change if they tried, but thats a lie. there is biblical proof that says they chose to be that way. not only do we dislike them, but they are also sinners in the eyes of the Lord.

1/27/2014
Tucson/Arizona
Emily Desilets
Mrs. Shafer/Dodge Middle School
Why do we have hatred against things we can't change!? It's not like you can wave a wand and suddenly be what everyone wants you to be. Not just American citizens but people around the world should not have to fight for equalality.

1/24/2014
miami
mary
bejeli
I need a straight foward issue. now.

1/16/2014
Chicago
Caleb
Bret Harte
Come on! This is rediculous. How could you degrade someone just as important.

11/19/2013
Anderson, Texas
Amy
Anderson-Shiro High School
It's ridiculous to me that there are still people who hate people because of the way they love. It's 2013. Marriage equality shouldn't be a debate. Anyone should be able to marry who they love, regardless of gender.

10/21/2013
Traverse City, Michigan
Tabby
Grand Traverse Academy
All this Racism is a bunch of bullcrap! This isn't when slaves were working for whites! This is the 21st century. Just forget all about this white is better than black stuff! Everyone is the same! The Framers established that when they created the Amendments. So, everyone just stop with all the racism and make America just a little more better to live in. Please?

10/16/2013
Denver, Colorado
Noah
Grant Beacon Middle School
Honestly people need to grow up, this shouldn't even have to be an issue right now, there are more important things this country should be worried about, like this thing with Syria. Why can't we all just get past the racism and the stereo types, and worry about more important things.

6/3/2013
raliehg nc
william rosario
hgms
we should be equal

5/21/2013
Chicago, IL
Kate
JJH
I believe that if we pride ourselves in building up a country that our forefathers started we should shape our lives by the laws the made. All men are equal. Yet we used the term White Supremacy and we discriminated against people who look different. That's just sick.

5/14/2013
Indianapolis, Indiana
Willy Gross
Mrs. Young / Broad Ripple High School
I think people who were adopted should have access to their biological family's medical records. Why doesn't anyone ever discuss the stereotypes of adopted kids when talking about civil rights? It's time to star this discussion. The rights and dignity of people who were adopted is THE most important civil rights issue of the modern era.

5/13/2013
China Grove, NC
Rachael Javurek
Jesse C Carson HIgh School
Being from the south we are very much unsegregated. That is a stereotype and I resent that comment. A lot of us are very liberal.

5/13/2013
China Grove, NC
Rachael Javurek
Jesse C Carson HIgh School
Being from the south we are very much unsegregated. That is a stereotype and I resent that comment. We are not dip licking hilly billies down here. A lot of us are very liberal.

5/10/2013
Grand Rapids , Michigan
Shardinay White
Union High School
I feel that the southern need more help with the segration . They're still racist down there ..

5/1/2013
Janensville Wisconsin
DILLON BRIGGS
Parker High School
i personally think there should be gay marrige, and i know this because of a personal experience and belief

5/1/2013
Janesville
Connor
Parker
I think us gays should be equal to the straight Americans.

4/29/2013
Janesville WI
Dylan
Parker
In my opinion I thin immigrants shouldnt get the same equal rights. They should not be treated as Americans because they are not Americans..

3/15/2013
lousiana
amber
sonia
whats the most crucial momvment

2/25/2013
Illinois
Jim
Chippewa
I agree people should have the right to do as they please to a certain extent. That extent not being sexual orientation or skin color or even religious views.

1/31/2013
Minneasota
Quinlan
Southview
I'm HIGHLY against umm racism and segregation. Why the umm?

1/30/2013
Minnesota
Kristine
Southview
Everyone should have the same rights as everyone, African americans should be equal (which they are now) Gays should have the right to marry, etc.

1/14/2013
airville
morgan
home schooled
gay people need to have the same rights as everyone

1/8/2013
Kentucky
Mac
Williams
YIP

11/13/2012
Georgia
Anna
Roopville
We have the right to speak our mind but some people are taking it to far and getting in trouble

5/11/2012
Porterville, CA
John
Smith/Monache
We should grant illegal immigrants equal protection under the constitution. They do not wish to harm America; they just wish to integrate with it. They help us by doing all the jobs we don't want to do ourselves, they help stimulate the economy with their earnings, and most of them even pay taxes without expecting welfare in return. Illegal immigrants should not even be considered illegal in the first place, since it is a very demeaning descriptor. We should completely open our borders to any immigrants who wish to come in, or at the very least allow the "illegal" ones here to be granted citizenship through a similar process as the legal ones, where they must pass an immigration test or something equivalent.

10/4/2011
Portland/Oregon
Bridget
Mrs.Tormala/St. Mary's Academy
Today a hot topic in civil rights is the issue of gay marriage. The Equal Protection Clause is supposed to protect against discrimination, but it still occurs today in everyday life. We have a right to marriage and our freedom of expression of what we love and who we love. Our sexual orientation doesn’t make us less intelligent or less of a person. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said we should be judged on “…the content of [our] character.” We discriminate against what we fear and what we are unknowledgeable of. Education is the only way we can turn people away from discrimination.

9/29/2011
Irving/Texas
Joan
Bradley/Nimitz
Even though the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution states that women, gays, and people with disabilities are not to be discriminated against, they are suffering from discrimination that still exist today. I believe that the rights of women should be explained clearly and thoroughly in the Constitution. By that, I mean the federal government should do something about the 19th and other amendments that concern the rights and liberty of women. Women have the ability to do anything men can do. All men and women are created to be equal. People's sexual orientation should be protected wholly by the federal government. It does not matter if a person is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, he still deserves the right to obtain the rights others have. He has the right to marry, to have jobs, and to own lands. People, straight or not, are protected under the Constitution of United States of America. As a deaf person myself, I have noticed numerous of discrimination against people with disabilities today. They are not being treated fairly. They can't find jobs. They don't have equal access to things as compared to people without disabilities. People with disabilities should be mentioned and be protected under the Constitution as well. The Americans with Disabilities Act should be broadened. This law should be implemented and mentioned everywhere. Everyone needs to understand people with disabilities do have the abilities to do as well as normal people can do. To do well in life, all they need is an equal access to everything. Illegal immigrants are illegal, thus, I don't think they should receive the equal protection under the American law. They should first obtain citizenship before being protected by the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment. I believe that the Constitution protects only American citizens and those with green cards. There are many civil rights issues that need to be confronted today, or else, discrimination will continue to thrive today.

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