Exploring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Its Implications

Exploring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Its Implications

Various areas were affected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as it prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Later laws expanded it to cover age, disability, housing, and voting rights. Enforcement effectiveness varied with different government administrations.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a significant milestone in the United States, aiming to address societal prejudice. It consisted of 11 titles and prohibited discrimination and segregation based on race, religion, national origin, and sex in various places like schools, hotels, restaurants, and hospitals.

The act was influenced by the civil rights movement, which shed light on racial barriers in education and public accommodations. After President Kennedy's call for a civil rights bill and his subsequent assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson championed the cause and, with support from activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the bill passed in 1964. Over the years, prohibitions against discrimination expanded, leading to subsequent civil rights legislation.

Key Concepts of the Civil Rights Act

Prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stands as a significant accomplishment of the civil rights movement. This federal legislation extended its reach to public schools, government agencies, employers, and private institutions receiving federal funds. Its multiple titles addressed equal access across various sectors of society, solidifying its significance in promoting equal rights and opportunities for all.



Title IProhibited unequal voter registration requirements like literacy tests.
Title IIOutlawed discrimination in public accommodations based on color, race, religion, or national origin, except for private clubs.
Title IIIProhibited state and local governments from denying access to public property based on color, race, religion, or national origin. Enforced equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Title IVProvided the basis for desegregation in public schools and colleges using the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection guarantees.
Title VExpanded the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Title VIProhibited discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance and allowed investigations and funding termination based on findings.
Title VIIAddressed equal employment opportunities by prohibiting discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin for federal government and private sector employers with 15 or more employees. Established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Title VIIIInstructed the Secretary of Commerce to survey registration and voting statistics relating to race, color, and national origin.
Titles IX-X-XITitle IX moved civil rights cases from state to federal courts, Title X created the Community Relations Service for dispute assistance, and Title XI granted defendants in contempt cases under the act the right to a trial by jury and set penalties.

1970s Civil Rights Laws

During the 1970s, additional federal legislation was passed to further expand civil rights for Americans.

  1. Education Amendments Act of 1972: Title IX of this act prohibited discrimination based on sex.
  2. Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 of this act prohibited discrimination based on disability.
  3. Age Discrimination Act of 1975: This act prohibited employment discrimination based on age.
  4. Department of Education Organization Act of 1979: The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was established by this act to investigate alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The impact of the OCR has varied over the years, depending on the level of interest in civil rights enforcement by different presidential administrations.

Civil Rights Laws in the 80s-90s

One of the legal challenges faced by the Civil Rights Law of 1964 was the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States. The motel, which catered to interstate travelers, had a history of denying rooms to African Americans. The owner argued that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to ban segregation in public accommodations. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the commerce clause of the Constitution granted Congress the power to pass such legislation.

In 1984, another case, Grove City College v. Bell, arose when a private church-affiliated co-educational institution contested the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX's prohibition of sex discrimination. The Supreme Court clarified that Title IX applied only to the financial aid department of the college, which received federal funds, and not the entire institution itself, which did not.

Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988

  • Congress passed the 1988 Civil Rights Restoration Act in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Grove City College v. Bell.
  • The act aimed to restore broad institution-wide applications of federal laws to combat discrimination in education based on race, age, and handicap in federally assisted programs.
  • President Ronald Reagan vetoed the legislation, but Congress overrode the veto, and the act became law.

Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all aspects of public life.
  • It covers areas such as employment, education, transportation, and public and private places accessible to the general public.
  • In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) expanded the protection to a wider population by modifying the definition of disability.

Civil Rights Act of 1991

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991 enhanced earlier civil rights legislation by allowing victims of intentional employment discrimination to seek damages.

2000s Civil Rights Decision

Over the past few decades, the Supreme Court has made several landmark decisions that have expanded and protected the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically, in the 21st century, the Supreme Court has issued four of these landmark decisions.

Lawrence vs. Texas, 2003

Laws criminalizing same-sex intercourse were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003. The case originated from a police arrest in Houston, Texas, which resulted in a criminal conviction. The ruling effectively invalidated such discriminatory laws.

United States vs. Windsor, 2013

A federal law that denied benefits to married same-sex couples was ruled against by the court in 2013. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who were married in Canada, faced this issue when Spyer passed away, and Windsor was denied a federal tax exemption for surviving spouses.

Obergefell vs. Ohio, 2014

The Supreme Court, in 2014, declared that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. Fourteen same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners were deceased filed the lawsuit, arguing that denying them the right to marry violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, 2020

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision that the civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Challenges to Achieving True Equality

Civil rights laws have improved equal treatment in various areas of American life. However, there are still challenges related to racism and inequality. People of color face issues such as housing discrimination, police violence, and disproportionate incarceration. Low voter turnout affects representation and funding in minority communities. Inadequate access to healthcare contributes to higher disease rates. Poverty, unemployment, voting rights, healthcare, and education are crucial civil rights issues. Addressing these challenges is essential for achieving true equality.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed to end discrimination and segregation in areas like voting, education, employment, and public accommodations. Its 11 titles targeted unequal treatment based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. While the act and subsequent laws have made significant progress, there is still work ahead to achieve full equality and opportunity for all citizens.

Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA))
The Civil Rights Act of 1964