Civil Rights Act of 1964: What’s At Stake 50 Years Later?

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  • A half century ago, with racial tensions boiling over and discrimination continuing to divide our country, Members of Congress took the historic step of reaching across the aisle to pass the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964. Noted as the “Bill of The Century”, the CRA set precedence by outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and ensured the uniformity of voter registration requirements.

    The effect of this legislation becoming the law of the land is undeniable. Upon signing it into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “The purpose of the law is simple. It does not restrict the freedom of any American, so long as he respects the rights of others. It does not give special treatment to any citizen. It does say the only limit to a man’s hope for happiness, and for the future of his children, shall be his own ability”.

    Unfortunately, a half century later, we are now faced with a House GOP majority that has gone to great lengths to obstruct President Obama’s agenda and roll back much of the progress we have made.

    Today, due to the Affordable Care Act, 6.8 million previously uninsured African-Americans now have access to health insurance. However, House Republicans have been relentless in their efforts to take this away, voting more than 50 times to repeal the law.

    Additionally, House Republicans have repeatedly denied a vote on raising the minimum wage.  A $2.85 hourly increase (to $10.10) would greatly benefit more than 4 million African-Americans.

    Finally, under this Republican-led House there has been a blatant unwillingness to protect the most fundamental right we have in our country: the right to vote. There is little explanation for their refusal to move the Voting Rights Act Amendment of 2014 forward, despite bipartisan cosponsors and strong support from both sides of the aisle and the civil rights community. This legislation would reinstate some of the essential protections lost under the Supreme Court’s decision a year ago to roll back provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    Too many Americans have fought  too hard for us to let a group of far-right Republicans erase the progress we’ve made over the past 50 years.

    That’s why from now until Election Day in November we have an important task. We must get unregistered voters registered, knock on as many doors as possible, and most importantly, empower and inform family, friends and neighbors of their right to vote and what’s at stake in this midterm election.

    The most powerful way we can honor and continue the legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is to vote. Let’s have President Obama’s back this fall by voting in Congressional midterms. Let’s finish the political journey that many started back in 2008 by voting to elect a Democratic majority in the House that will fight for our values.”

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