Background on Civil Rights

The civil rights category encompasses the following issues:

Black Lives Matter

  • BLM: The BLM movement was a response to numerous police killings of young black men, newly captured on cellphones. (Police reform aspects covered in Crime backgrounder).

  • All Lives Matter: "It's a weaponized phrase meant to silence the oppressed. Don’t get us wrong, all lives DO matter. Or, at least they should. The reason BLM exists is because systemic racism, police brutality and murder against the Black community show over and over again that Black lives don’t seem to matter. So, a person who says 'All Lives Matter' is actually proving the point that Black people continue to be a second thought in bigger issues." (MSN, 6/15/20)
  • Blue Lives Matter: "Blue Lives Matter is a countermovement that emerged after Black Lives Matter activists began protesting systemic racism and police brutality. Supporters believe there is a 'war on cops' and that killing a police officer should be considered a hate crime. (See its "Thin Blue Line" flag and symbol).
  • Silence is complicity: "Do white people understand that when we see or hear something and DO NOTHING, we are causing more trauma? Silence is not neutral. Silence is on the side of the oppressor. When witnessing a racist event, to be silent is to strengthen the systems of oppression and increase the trauma. Silence in the face of racism speaks volumes. Silence IS complicity." (Committee for Racial Justice)
  • Suburbs vs Cities: At issue in the 2020 election is the assumption that cities are majority minority (true, accordong to Pew Research chart below), and that suburbs are majority white (mostly true, but becoming racially mixed)

  • TRUMP: Black lives matter, but we need strong police presence. (Aug 2015)
  • PENCE: Always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line. (Jul 2016)
  • BIDEN: Suburbs are by and large integrated. (Sep 2020)
  • HARRIS: Must speak the truth about racism & other forms of hate. (Aug 2019)
  • News on Black Lives Matter (Candidates' recent excerpts)

Minority Rights

  • Hate Crimes: Congress defines as a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation of that person.

  • Affirmative Action: Minority applicants are preferentially hired to make up for past discrimination. The equivalent negative term is ‘Reverse Discrimination’. Candidates discuss whether ‘preference’ implies a fixed ‘quota’.

  • Racial Profiling: Also known as ‘Driving While Black’. Law enforcement practice of using race to decide which motorists to stop.

  • Redlining: Practice where banks draw lines around certain low income and minority neighborhoods. The banks then refuse to lend to those neighborhoods.

  • Bilingual education: Government requirement that U.S. public schools teach children in their native languages. Since 1974, all schools that accept federal funding must provide special language programs.

  • School Desegregation: The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education found racially segregated schools to be unconstitutional. In 1971, another Supreme Court ruling unanimously upheld busing for school integration.

  • During the 2019-2020 Democratic presidential primaries, Kamala Harris accused Joe Biden of working with racist Senators who opposed busing for desegregation.

  • Diversity: Racial statistics reported in 2010 U.S. census:
    • 72% White
    • 13% Black
    • 3% Asian
    • 9% Other or mixed
    • 15% Hispanic regardless of race
    • More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of the increase in the Hispanic population.

  • TRUMP: Tolerate diversity; prosecute hate crimes against gays. (Jul 2000)
  • PENCE: Rated 22% by the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance. (Dec 2006)
  • BIDEN: We are strong & great BECAUSE of diversity, not despite it. (Jul 2019)
  • HARRIS: Reparations means real investments in black communities. (Feb 2019)
  • Socialist Party nominee Gloria LA RIVA: Pay reparations, with interest, for slavery (Jan 2008)
  • News on Affirmative Action and News on Reparations (Candidates' recent excerpts)

Women’s Rights

  • Equal Pay for Equal Work: Addresses discriminatory salary differences that exist between certain groups. The Fair Pay Act of 1999 would provide equal wages and benefits for work of equivalent value. Since that act did not pass, nor have equivalent bills through 2014, women can legally still be paid less than men for the same work.

  • ‘Glass Ceiling’: Term was popularized in a 1986 Wall Street Journal article describing the invisible barriers (usually prejudice) that women and minorities face as they move up the corporate hierarchy.

  • Domestic Violence: At the heart of the Domestic Violence Act of 1995 is the protection order. It names the person who is abusive and states what behavior is illegal under the order. The Family Law Act 1996 provides for a single set of civil remedies to deal with domestic violence.

Freedom of Religion

  • Hobby Lobby: In the 2016 election "freedom of religion" has come to mean "the right of business owners to apply their religious choices to employees." In the landmark 2014 case known as "Hobby Lobby," the Supreme Court allowed a private company to deny contraceptives to female employees under the company health plan, because the owners had a religious objection to contraception. The underlying law, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), had already been declared unconstitutional in another 1997 Supreme Court case, but RFRA is still applied in some situations. Supporters of "religious liberties" often claim the right to not serve homosexuals, as in the case of a bakery declining to produce a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage.

  • ENDA: At issue in the 2016 election is which situations business owners' religious choices should apply: Can they object to selling products or services to gay customers? Can they object to hiring gay employees? Even though the Supreme Court ruling was about religious objections to contraception, the case will apply to other issues, especially gay rights. The conflicting law is ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which disallows barring employment due to being gay.

  • TRUMP: Happiest people have great families & God in their lives. (Nov 2015)
  • PENCE: Religious Freedom Act is not about LGBT discrimination. (Sep 2015)
  • BIDEN: Voted YES on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.. (Jun 2002)
  • HARRIS: Federal government protects civil rights when states fail. (Jun 2019)
  • News on Freedom of Religion (Candidates' recent excerpts)
  • Click for further background on religion and Christian heritage

    Religious Rights

    • School Prayer (see Education)

    • Posting Ten Commandments in public places (see Principles & Values)

    • The flag desecration amendment is considered a proxy issue for free speech (if you oppose the amendment) or a proxy issue for patriotism (if you support the amendment). A flag-desecration law was introduced in every Congress from 1995 to 2006; it passed the House in each session, and failed to pass the Senate by only one vote in 2005. A flag-desecration bill has been sponsored in both the House and Senate (without a vote) in every Congress from 2007 to 2013.
Transgender Rights Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell
  • The Clinton administration in 1993 enacted a “don’t ask/don’t tell” (DADT) policy for gays in the military. Under the DADT rules, gays could be discharged from the military for homosexual contact and for stating their sexual orientation, but the military is not allowed to ask them their orientation.

  • The DADT policy was repealed in 2010; since then, gays may serve openly in the military. Hence gay and lesbian people may now openly serve in the US military. Since 1993, the DADT policy held that homosexuals may serve as long as they do not announce their homosexuality ("Don't Tell"), but also that the military may not investigate their homosexuality ("Don't Ask").

  • The policy banning open homosexuals serving in the military was repealed on Sept. 20, 2011. Hence gay and lesbian people may now openly serve in the US military.

  • News on DADT (Candidates on LGBT military)
Civil Unions & Same-Sex Marriage
  • A divided Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right. Married same-sex couples will now enjoy the same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples nationwide. (CNN, 6/27/2015)
  • Adoption: 19 states allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in a complex and expensive two-step process, in which one parent first adopts and then the second can petition for joint rights.
  • In Dec. 1999, the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed a 1996 ruling, and defined marriage as between different sex couples.
  • In April 2000, the Vermont House of Representatives gave final approval to same-sex marriages. Gays and lesbians may join in "civil unions," which are no expected to be recognized by other states and will not entitle the partners to federal benefits. The Vermont Supreme Court had ruled in December that gay and lesbian couples denied the right to marry were suffering from unconstitutional discrimination.
  • In June 2000, the Supreme Court let stand a New Jersey ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to ban gay scoutmasters.
  • In July 2000, Vermont began offering a separate form of marriage, conferring about 300 spousal rights to same sex couples.
  • The Civil Union license is obtained from town clerks. There is a $20 fee. The Unions are "certified" either by justices of the peace, judge, or willing member of the clergy. Civil Union couples also have the right to dissolve their unions through a "dissolution" process in Family Court.

  • TRUMP: After Supreme Court vote, gay marriage is a reality. (Aug 2015)
  • PENCE: Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
  • BIDEN: Marriage is all about "who do you love", of whatever gender. (Oct 2017)
  • HARRIS: End unequal treatment under law by sexual orientation. (Oct 2019)
  • Libertarian Party nominee Jo JORGENSEN: State licensing any marriage is illegitimate practice (May 2020)
  • News on LGBT rights and same-sex marriage (Candidates' recent excerpts)
Lead up to Same-sex Marriage
  • Goodridge v. Department of Public Health: The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in Nov. 2003 that cities must issue same-sex marriage licenses. The first such license was issues in Cambridge Massachusetts on May 17, 2004.
  • 1913 Law: A Massachusetts law from 1913, targeting miscegeny or mixed-race marriage, required that residents of other states be legally marriageable in their home state, in order to qualify in Massachusetts. This law has prevented same-sex couples from elsewhere marrying in Massachusetts. In Feb. 2007, Rhode Island became the first state to accept same-sex marriage licenses from Massachusetts (despite that same-sex couples cannot marry in Rhode Island itself).
  • California's Supreme Court enabled same-sex marriage in a ruling on May 15, 2008, overturning a statewide ban, citing a 1948 reversal of a ban on interracial marriages (but later overturned the law).
  • Connecticut's Supreme Court enabled same-sex marriage in a ruling on Oct. 10, 2008, replacing CT's civil union law.
  • State DOMA: Largely as a result of the Massachusetts law, 29 states banned same-sex marriage. The laws are known as 'Defense of Marriage Amendments'. Several 2004 & 2008 ballot initiatives brought out enough voters to not only pass state DOMA laws, but to influence the Congressional and/or presidential election. The issue retains high interest in the 2012 presidential race.
  • Federal DOMA: refers to the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, which defined marriage as consisting of one man and one woman (in other words, barring same-sex marriage). DOMA applies to all federal benefits and taxes, but not necessarily to state benefits and taxes.
  • In May 2012, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that DOMA unconstitutionally denies benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples. The ruling supports the Obama administration's 2011 announcement that it considered the law unconstitutional and no longer would defend it.
  • On March 27, 2013, the Supreme Court heard US v. Windsor on overturning DOMA, and on June 26, 2013, overturned key components of DOMA as unconstitutional. DOMA was declared to violate the “equal protection” clause, and establishes that same-sex married couples are entitled to equal federal benefits as all married couples.
  • Domestic Partnership: 11 states have some sort of civil union or domestic partnership law for same-sex couples.
  • As of the 2012 election, 13 states allowed same-sex civil unions or had some similar legislation, and 29 states had laws defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. By the 2014 election, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage had risen to 34 states. Several more states have legalized same-sex marriage but it has not yet taken effect (but will by the 2016 election). With a majority of states having legalized same-sex marriage, at issue now is federal law, which includes numerous aspects of federal benefits.
Societal Issues
  • Rep. Barney Frank on July 8, 2012 became the first incumbent member of Congress to marry a same-sex partner. Frank is not running for re-election in Nov. 2012, and announced in the 1980s that he is gay.
  • Boy Scouts: In June 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America can bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.

Click here for Amazon books on Civil Rights.
Pro gay marriage
Pro traditional marriage
Pro affirmative action
Anti reverse discrimination
Other candidates on Civil Rights: Background on other issues:
2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

2020 GOP and Independent Candidates:
CEO Don Blankenship (C-WV)
Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
CEO Howard Schultz (I-WA)
Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
Gov.Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
V.C.Arvin Vohra (L-MD)
Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
Gov.Bill Weld (L-MA)

2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
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