GOVT 2301
Week Thirteen
Readings, Notes, and Assignment

Civil Rights


- Cornell University Law School: Civil Rights.
- The Founders' Constitution: Equality
- Wikipedia: Fourteenth Amendment.
- Findlaw: The Fourteenth Amendment
- Affirmative Action
- Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson
- Findlaw: Civil Rights Center.

Civil Rights can be defined as guarantees citizens are entitled to make on the government on legal grounds. The source of these legal grounds is contained in section one of the 14th Amendment which both states that people born in the United States are citizens with privileges and immunities that cannot be violated by states, and that states cannot treat people unequally before the law. Both imply that the national government is in a position to determine how a state can treat its citizens, so civil rights involves an expansion of national power. The nature of this power is to ensure that American's are treated equally before the law, so the concept of equality is central to the idea of civil rights.

The above readings touch on these issues. The chapter on equality discusses the problematic way that the founders dealt with the concept of equality. The 14th Amendment was a response to the fact that the notion of equality that had existed in the U.S. included institutions--notably slavery, and later Jim Crow--that imposed inequality. Recently efforts to ensure equity before the law have led to the use of procedures aimed at eradicating the lingering consequences of past acts of discrimination. The links above to Affirmative Action, and the court case Parents v Seattle (you don't need to read the whole decision. The intro should give you a sense of what the case is about) touch on the nature of this continuing controversy.

Internet Students: Write two 200 word answers to the following questions:
1 - How in fact did the founders deal with the issue of equality and how did the 14th Amendment modify the treatment of equality in the Constitution?
2 - What is Affirmative Action? What controversies are associated with it? What is the Supreme Courts' current position on this issue?

Lecture students: Be prepared for a multiple choice quiz on the following terms


What are civil rights?
- Requirements that government, and certain private organizations, treat people equally.
- A denial of special privileges due to charactersitics such as race, gender, and class.

Where do we find civil rights mentioned in the Constitution?
- The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
- We can also look to the Declaration of Independence

Britain was -- and still is -- a class based society
- nobility
- House of Lords

Colonial America established a priviledge class
- religious belief
- indentured servitude
- gender
- slavery

The colonists demanded the rights of Englishmen

Various movements in American history have attempted to expand participation and equalize legal status
- property rights
- abolition
- womens' movement

The expansion of civil rights is an attempt to eradicate, or minimize, discrimination
- some discrimination is lawful
- some discrimination is unlawful

What is the difference?
- is there a compelling purpose served by recognizing a particular distinction between people?
- possible distinctions: race, gender, age, disability, marital status, national origin, religion, sexual orientation
- possible areas of discrimination: education, employment, housing, lending and credit, governmenrt services

Legal Standards
- Strict Scrutiny
- Intermediate Scrutiny
- Rational Basis

How does the Supreme Court interpret "equal protection of the laws?"

Test Cases

Plessy v. Ferguson
- a falied test case
- majority ruled that segregation was an appropriate way to preserve public order, equal protection clause not violated because equal facilties were provided, and separation did not imply inferiority
- the dissent stated that the Constitution is color blind and does not recognize classes among citizens.

NAACP legal startegy

Brown v. Board of Education
- separation is inherently unequal
- schools must desegregate with all deliberate speed.
- race made a suspect classification, strict scrutiny used in all cases

Affirmative Action: Can race be used as a criteria to negate impact of past acts of racial discrimation?


Bakke v. California
Parents v. Seattle