Civil Rights

  • Created by: Q_
  • Created on: 25-04-19 20:48

Factors in the development of civil rights in the

The first ten amendments were passed in the shape of the 1791 Bill of Rights:

  • Freedom of speech and political expression (First Amendment)
  • The right to bear arms (Second Amendment)
  • The right not to incriminate oneself (later interpretated as the right to remain silent under police/judicial questioning: Fifth Amendment or 'Miranda Rights' (1966)
  • A ban on 'cruel and unusual' punishments (Eight Amendment) 


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Factors in the development of civil rights in the

Since then civil rights has been added to in various ways: 

  • Additional constitutional amendments: such as those passed in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War (Fourteenth-Sixteenth Amendments) have given additional rights to Americans, for example equal protection under the law, and banned racial discrimination in granting the vote. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women full and equal voting rights. 
  • Landmark rulings by the Supreme Court have expanded rights by taking broader and more expansive interpretations of the Bill of Rights. The Topeka v. Brown case where the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional (based upon the Equal Protection Clause). 
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Factors in the development of civil rights in the

  • Federal laws passed by Congress arguably have had less impact on the protection of civil rights than landmark judgements. Many key laws were passed during the 1960s, most notably the 1963 Equal Pay Act that ended wage differences based on gender, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The second two emerged out of the black civil rights movement led by, among others, Martin Luther King. 
  • Pressure group action has also contributed significantly to extending and defending civil rights for a whole range of Americans. These can range from 'conservative' groups that seek to promote the civil rights of the unborn (anti-abortion groups such as the American Life League), to 'progressive' groups (such as the NAACP) that want to defend and enhance the rights of, among others, gay and ethnic minorities. Lobbying Congress and state governments and submitting amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court all form part of their tactics. 
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Pressure groups and civil rights

Pressure groups are prominent in the struggle for civil rights on the behalf of all kinds of groups. 

The notion of civil rights extends widely and often produces clashes over whose rights prevail. For example, in the abortion debate, some would fight vigorously to defend the civil rights of women over their reproductive rights, while others would equally strongly seek to defend the rights of the unborn. 

Many pressure groups have successfully championed civil rights, with the NAACP often involved in helping to bring cases concerning rights for African-Americans before the courts, by funding much of the legal costs.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been prominent in supporting cases such as Miranda v. Arizona.

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  • Both value the rights of minorities and individual liberties in a general sense. 
  • Both nations have laws in place as well as other constitutional safeguards to prevent infringement of these rights. 
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  • US civil rights are more entrenched than those in the UK by being embodied in the US Constitution and its amendments, especially the Bill of Rights. Civil rights in the UK are more protected by statute law (such as the HRA 1998) and common law and documents such as the Magna Carta. One could argue that Americans' rights are more securely protected, though that constitutional protection is variable: gun owners are better constitutionally protected than women and children.
  • In the UK, civil rights are often protected by membership of other international bodies, most notably the ECtHR located in Strasbourg. By contrast, international commitments play no real significant role in the protection of civil rights in America. 
  • In the USA, some civil rights are much more party political and partisan. Democrats are found fighting for gay and female reproductive rights while the Republicans champion the rights of gun owners and fetuses. 
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