Was the U.S. Civil rights Act of 1964 really Constitutional?

Discussion in 'Law & Justice' started by kazenatsu, Feb 29, 2024.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    In 1964, the United States passed the Civil Rights Act.

    Senator Barry Goldwater, who would later run on the Republican side in the next Presidential election, voted against the bill. This was despite the fact that Goldwater had previously supported attempts to pass civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960. The reason Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act was because of Title II in the bill, which read:

    "Your rights under TITLE II
    You have the right to full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation. You cannot be treated differently by a place of public accommodation because of your race, color, religion, or national origin."

    The bill considered private businesses to be a "public accommodation". Therefore, while the act ostensibly granted "rights" to individuals, it took away rights from private business.

    Some of you may be familiar with the difference between "positive rights" and "negative rights".
    Positive rights involve something than an individual is owed, which other people are required to do for that individual. (An example might be the "right to healthcare") Negative rights is the right the individual has for something not to be done to them. (An example might be the right not to be murdered)

    Goldwater said about his opposition to the bill, "You can't legislate morality", and believed Title II in the 1964 bill violated individual liberty and states' rights.

    In the U.S. Supreme Court cases Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964) and United States v. Johnson (1968 ) the Supreme Court upheld that the Act did apply to private businesses. In both cases the court noted that the businesses in question, a hotel in the first case and a restaurant in the second, were near an interstate highway.

    It was argued that the discrimination of the businesses had an effect on interstate commerce, and that therefore the federal government had the power under the U.S. Constitution to enforce this law.

    But is this really a fair standard to determine whether enforcement of a policy in appropriate under the Constitution?
    I would think, rather, that the federal government should only have the power to enforce a non-discrimination law on actual interstate commerce, and not just on any business because it might affect interstate commerce in some way. Unless there was some more extreme reason and the policy was very important for being able to control interstate commerce.

    It seems to me that the government just ignored the U.S. Constitution, and the Supreme Court came up with some very flimsy excuses to justify it. This goes against logic and legal common sense, and goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

    The Civil Rights Act then set precedent for all sorts of additional federal government interference. Arguably this interference is not the appropriate role of the federal level of government under the U.S. Constitution.

    The Fourteenth Amendment says that "No state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" and "Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article". But the federal government and Supreme Court later give a radical interpretation to what "equal protection of the laws" meant, a meaning that was far more expansive.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2024
  2. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    In my experience, this kind of discussion never gets anywhere, largely because the majority of Americans have a blind spot. They're fundamentally incapable of considering the possibility that, where there is an apparent conflict between a law and the US Constitution, it is the Constitution that is wrong.
     
  3. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    In other words you do not believe in the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution, and do not believe the government should be encumbered by the Constitution when it comes to passing laws which you want to see passed.
     
  4. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    You're kind of proving my point there. Even a hint that the US Constitution might need to be amended (again) and you get defensive and assume the worst motives.

    I'm talking about looking at these things from a more abstract and distant manner (especially emotionally distant). We have a set of outcomes we want to achieve (once we've actually agreed on that, which is it's own problem), principles such as personal freedoms and equally, both in what you do and what is done to you, and we have inevitable conflicts and contradictions between them to resolve (like the freedom to choose who to do business with against the right not to be discriminated against).

    The problem is that these conflicts generally aren't resolved before we start talking about the laws we already have (in part because people want them to be resolved in their favour and in part because we naturally focus on immediate practicalities rather than abstract principles) but I'd suggest that we need to address those conflicts (as best we can) before we even start thinking about practicalities of laws and their implementation.

    Only once we have established those definitive principles and outcomes we're seeking should we then consider what kind of laws (and other elements) would be serve them. And if our current laws (even constitutional ones) don't work with those principles and outcomes, it clearly makes sense to at least consider changing those laws rather than trying to force things around them. Amending a national constitution is certainly not something to be taken lightly, which is why the process to do so is carefully laid out, but that isn't good reason to dismiss the idea out of hand.
     
  5. Lil Mike

    Lil Mike Well-Known Member

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    Fair point, but if the constitution is wrong, isn't the proper path to amend it, rather than ignore it? It seems that ignoring it will leave open a lot of downstream bad effects of other parts of the Constitution being ignored....oh wait, I'm living in 2024.
     

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