List of Issues
Affirmative Action Are racial preference systems a reasonable way to value diversity or a veiled attempt at reverse discrimination? Although affirmative action programs remain legal, a divided court and a divided nation keep the debate alive.

Civil Liberties in War What personal freedoms are Americans willing to sacrifice in the name of national security?

Death Penalty Is the death penalty an effective deterrent to crime or a violation of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment?

Free Speech The First Amendment guarantees free speech to all Americans. But in 1999, a New York Appeals Court upheld a City of New York rule that required members of the Ku Klux Klan to remove any head-coverings or masks when marching. Does the unmasking of the KKK interfere with their First Amendment freedoms? Can this precedent force other protesters to reveal their identities when protesting governmental action?

Gun Control After the Columbine school massacre, many legislators called for renewed efforts to limit the sale of handguns, particularly to minors. Cities such as Chicago and New Orleans went so far as to bring lawsuits aimed at recouping the costs of gun violence from the gun industry. The lawsuits question whether gun manufacturers and dealers, like the tobacco industry, can be held accountable for the criminal use of their products. Does the Second Amendment prohibit state regulation and control of firearms?

Juvenile Justice Young people are increasingly being tried as adults when they commit serious crimes and are serving hard time in adult prisons. Will treating children as adults deter crime and ensure safety? Or is locking children up for life cruel and unusual punishment? Supporters argue that youths who commit adult crimes must be treated as such. Critics of the law say that it jails a population that has the greatest capacity for rehabilitation and unfairly targets inner city minorities.

Web Censorship Freedom of speech has entered a new battleground: cyberspace. The very qualities that make the Internet an ideal communication tool also facilitate the exposure of children to potentially harmful material. Should access to "adult" material, such as pornography, be filtered or otherwise banned to prevent children from accessing it at schools, libraries and other public places, or is it protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech? The U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed filters to be placed on library computers, but left the door open to future legal challenges.

Zero Tolerance When Congress passed the Gun Free Schools Act in the early 1990s, they sought to crack down on kids with guns. In practice, the law provided schools with a tool to handle discipline problems, vandalism, assaults, drugs, sexual harassment, even cheating. School boards call it zero tolerance. Critics call it a deeply flawed policy. Administrators are enforcing zero tolerance policies that often result in school suspensions or expulsions for minor infractions. Do these policies unjustly punish first time offenders, or is that simply the price we must pay for safe schools?

The Drug War After more than thirty years and billions of dollars spent on fighting the war on drugs, the typical high school student says it is easier to buy pot than alcohol. From the crack epidemic in the 1980's to the latest designer drugs like ecstasy, the drug war has been fueled by concerns about the impact that these substances have on society. Drug warriors continue to call for harsher punishments and larger police forces. But, after all this time and money, the public increasingly doubts if the war can ever be won. Are drugs a problem of public safety or public health? Is there another way?

Energy and the Environment How can we become more energy efficient, protect the environment and combat climate change? For decades, alarms have been raised about U.S. dependence on foreign oil. And more recently, the emissions from carbon fuels have increased concerns about global warming. But efforts to bolster alternative or renewable energy sources have made scant progress. And the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico highlighted the failure of government regulators and industry to enforce safety measures, leading to an environmental disaster. What sorts of energy policies best serve the interests of Americans?

Religion in Schools From opening prayers at football games to lessons about creationism taught in the classroom, the presence of religion in public schools tests the limits of free expression and tolerance. Some feel that denying religious groups access to school facilities is unfair discrimination. Others believe that religion belongs only in private homes and places of worship. What role, if any, should religion play in the public education system?

Race and Education While many hail the profound importance of the desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, others openly question if the reality lives up to the promise. Busing orders have ended, integration plans put aside and most schools across the nation remain largely segregated by race. In an ironic shift, some racial justice activists are now advocating for the development of specially designated schools for African American boys and African American girls. What are the costs of continued segregation and where do we take the legacy left to us by the justices a half a century ago?

Women's Rights From the voting booth to the office cubicle; the ball field to the battlefield, the road to women’s equality has been a long and difficult one. And unfinished business remains.

Voting Rights It took 81 years for African Americans to gain a constitutional right to vote, 132 years for women and 183 years for those 18 to 20 years old.

United Nations Peacekeeping It is not a nation. It has no standing army. And, yet, the United Nations has more experience with war and peace than any nation on the planet.

Education Policy Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer providing opportunities for all regardless of class or race. However, studies continue to document that young people of color or from low-income families have fewer opportunities for a quality education and that the gap is growing at an alarming rate.

First Amendment Perhaps the most important rights central to a democracy are enumerated in the First Amendment: the right to free speech and expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government.

Freedom from Discrimination Since its beginnings, America has struggled with the principle of equality for all people.

Health Care President Franklin Roosevelt, in his 1944 State of the Union address, spoke eloquently of the need for an “Economic Bill of Rights,” including the “right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health” as one of the keys to ensuring Americans’ security and economic independence. But Roosevelt’s idea to overhaul the nation’s health care system went nowhere, as did the efforts of Presidents Harry Truman and Bill Clinton.

Immigration America is a nation of immigrants. As they arrived in waves to the new country, they shaped its identity, built its economy and embodied its ideals of freedom.

Legal Rights The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The due process clause, which places substantive restrictions on the unreasonable use of government power, is one of the oldest and best guarantees of liberty.

Rights of Juvenile Defendants Young people are increasingly being tried as adults when they commit serious crimes and are given severe sentences. Does treating young people as adults deter crime and ensure safety? Or is it cruel and unusual punishment to lock up a teenager for life?

Second Amendment “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The meaning of the Second Amendment has long been debated.

Social Security The crisis of Social Security has come to the forefront of public debate, but few elected officials dare touch the controversial topic as efforts to overhaul the massive, popular entitlement plan have failed repeatedly.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure Technological capabilities in the 21st century raise issues of privacy that the framers could not have imagined when they drafted the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

State and Local Government This issue pages discusses the 10th Amendment, which is about states' rights, and state and local governments.
Women's Rights
From the voting booth to the office cubicle; the ball field to the battlefield, the road to women’s equality has been a long and difficult one. Extraordinary successes have been achieved by women themselves as they gathered petitions, staged rallies, protested unfair laws and lobbied for better ones, and fought for justice in the courts. But unfinished business remains, including pay and benefits inequity, the “glass ceiling,” disproportionate numbers in elected offices, and workplace discrimination. As recently as 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act , which made the rules governing the process employees must follow to recover discriminatory pay more fair.  The women’s movement may be less confrontational than in its early years, but it is no less determined.

  • 1769
    Women's Property Rights Restricted

  • 1777
    Abigail Adams Writes On Women's Rights

  • 1826
    First High Schools For Girls Open

  • 1833
    First College Opens Its Doors To Women

  • 1838
    First All Women's College Is Founded

  • 1839
    Women Gain Limited Property Rights

  • 1840
    Women Barred From Participating In World Conference

  • 1848
    First Women's Rights Conference Held In Seneca Falls

  • 1849
    Medical Degree Awarded To A Woman For First Time

  • 1852
    Women’s Temperance Society Established

  • 1866
    American Equal Rights Association Is Founded

  • 1868
    Fourteenth Amendment Ratified By States
    National Labor Union Supports Equal Pay For Equal Work

  • 1869
    Women's Movement Splits Over Civil Rights Issue
    First Girls-Only Preparatory School Founded
    Wyoming Territory Passes First Law Giving Voting Right To Women

  • 1870
    Women Allowed To Sit On Grand Jury in Wyoming
    15th Amendment Ratified, Allows Ex-Slaves To Vote

  • 1872
    Equal Pay For Equal Work Required For Female Federal Employees
    First Woman Nominated For President
    Susan B. Anthony Arrested For Attempting To Vote

  • 1873
    Comstock Law Is Passed

  • 1874
    Women’s Christian Temperance Union Founded

  • 1875
    Supreme Court Denies Women The Right To Vote

  • 1878
    Susan B. Anthony Amendment Introduced In Congress

  • 1879
    Women Allowed To Practice Law In Federal Courts

  • 1890
    National American Women's Suffrage Association Founded
    Wyoming Gives Voting Right To Women

  • 1896
    National Association Of Colored Women Established

  • 1900
    Women Gain Property Rights In All States

  • 1903
    Women’s Trade Union League Formed

  • 1908
    Ruling On Work Hours Seen As Blow To Equality Drive

  • 1909
    Labor Uprising Occurs In New York City

  • 1913
    Congressional Union Is Founded

  • 1914
    Margaret Sanger Calls For Legalization Of Contraceptives

  • 1915
    Suffragists Drive Across Country To Support Women's Rights

  • 1916
    National Women’s Party Organizes White House Protests

  • 1917
    First Woman Elected to U.S. House

  • 1919
    Federal Government Creates Women’s Bureau
    Congress Proposes Women's Suffrage Amendment

  • 1920
    League Of Women Voters Created
    Nineteenth Amendment Is Ratified

  • 1921
    American Birth Control League Is Founded

  • 1922
    Ruling Says 19th Amendment Does Not Explicitly Give Voting Right To Women

  • 1923
    First Equal Rights Amendment Introduced

  • 1931
    Jane Addams Receives Nobel Peace Prize

  • 1932
    National Recovery Act Is Passed

  • 1934
    First Woman Appointed To Federal Appeals Court

  • 1935
    National Council Of Negro Women Formed

  • 1938
    Fair Labor Standards Act Establishes Minimum Wage Without Regard To Sex

  • 1941
    Seven Million Women Join Workforce During World War II

  • 1945
    Women Industrial Workers Begin To Lose Their Jobs
    Equal Pay For Equal Work Bill Again Introduced

  • 1953
    'Women’s Lib’ Is Coined

  • 1960
    Food And Drug Administration Approves Birth Control Pills

  • 1961
    Court Upholds Different Treatment Of Women As Jurors
    Eleanor Roosevelt To Lead Commission On The Status Of Women

  • 1963
    'The Feminine Mystique' Published
    Congress Passes Equal Pay Act

  • 1964
    Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 Passed

  • 1965
    Law Struck Down Banning Contraceptive Use By Married Couples

  • 1966
    National Organization For Women Established

  • 1967
    Civil Rights Protections Extended To Women

  • 1968
    Sex-Segregated Help-Wanted Ads in Newspapers Ruled Illegal

  • 1969
    California Adopts First No-Fault Divorce Law
    Ruling Opens Former 'Men-Only' Jobs To Women

  • 1970
    Thousands March In First Women’s Strike For Equality

  • 1971
    Court Strikes Down State Law That Excludes Women

  • 1972
    Title IX Of Education Amendments Of 1972 Passed

  • 1973
    Supreme Court Establishes Abortion Right
    Women-Only Branches Eliminated In U.S. Military

  • 1974
    Pregnant Women Cannot Be Forced To Leave Jobs
    Congress Bans Sex Discrimination In Consumer Credit

  • 1976
    Court Establishes 'Intermediate Review' For Sex Discrimination
    U.S. Military Academies Open Admissions To Women

  • 1978
    Employment Discrimination Against Pregnant Women Barred

  • 1980
    Federal Guidelines List Sexual Harassment As Discrimination

  • 1981
    Sandra Day O'Connor Is First Woman On Supreme Court

  • 1992
    Supreme Court Upholds Right To Abortion
    Record Number Of Women Run For Public Office And Win

  • 1993
    Family Medical Leave Act Takes Effect

  • 1996
    Military College Ordered To Admit Women

  • 2003
    Wage Gap Gets Worse

  • 2009
    Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Signed Into Law
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