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Civil Rights

The Origin Of Federal Civil Rights Laws, Subsequent Legislation, The 1980s And Beyond, Prisoners' Rights

Personal liberties that belong to an individual, owing to his or her status as a citizen or resident of a particular country or community.

The most common legal application of the term civil rights involves the rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens and residents by legislation and by the Constitution. Civil rights protected by the Constitution include FREEDOM OF SPEECH and freedom from certain types of discrimination.

Not all types of discrimination are unlawful, and most of an individual's personal choices are protected by the freedoms to choose personal associates; to express himself or herself; and to preserve personal privacy. Civil rights legislation comes into play when the practice of personal preferences and prejudices of an individual, a business entity, or a government interferes with the protected rights of others. The various civil rights laws have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. Discrimination that interferes with VOTING RIGHTS and equality of opportunity in education, employment, and housing is unlawful.

The term PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES is related to civil rights. Privileges and immunities encompass all rights of individuals that relate to people, places, and real and PERSONAL PROPERTY. Privileges include all of the legal benefits of living in the United States, such as the freedom to sell land, draft a will, or obtain a DIVORCE. Immunities are the protections afforded by law that prevent the government or other people from hindering another's enjoyment of his or her life, such as the right to be free from illegal SEARCHES AND SEIZURES and the freedom to practice religion without government persecution. The Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution states, "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States." The clause is designed to prevent each state from discriminating against

One effect of legislation and judicial decisions concerning civil rights has been an increase in the number of women in what were traditionally male jobs.

the people in other states in favor of its own citizens.

The BILL OF RIGHTS, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, delineates specific rights that are reserved for U.S. citizens and residents. No state can remove or abridge rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution.

In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in DRED SCOTT V. SANDFORD, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 15 L. Ed. 691, that the Constitution did not apply to African Americans because they were not citizens when the Constitution was written. After the Civil War, therefore, new laws were necessary for the purpose of extending civil liberties to the former slaves.

In 1865, the THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT to the Constitution was enacted to make SLAVERY and other forms of INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE unlawful. In addition, Congress was given the power to enact laws that were necessary to enforce this new amendment.

The FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT, ratified in 1868, provides that every individual who is born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen and ensures that a state may not deprive a citizen or resident of his or her civil rights, including DUE PROCESS OF LAW and EQUAL PROTECTION of the laws. Congress is also empowered to enact laws for the enforcement of these rights.

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