Tlaib champions bill to strengthen civil rights laws under attack by Republicans

Conservative judges have eroded laws intended to protect against discrimination

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib. - Phil Pasquini /
Phil Pasquini /
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is leading an effort to bolster historic anti-discrimination laws that have been weakened by conservative judges.

The Justice for All Act is intended to expand and strengthen the civil rights of all Americans.

The legislation would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 to prohibit discrimination, regardless of intent.

Since the passage of the historic bills, right-leaning courts have diluted the strengths of the legislation by requiring plaintiffs to prove there was intent to discriminate.

The Justice for All Act is aimed at protecting people from discrimination in housing, schooling, public accommodations, employment, government facilities, privatized government functions, federally funded programs, and businesses.

“This bill is part of a movement in our country to help restore the true core intent of the Civil Rights Act and to continue to call for justice to protect every person in this country from discrimination,” Tlaib, D-Detroit, said at a news conference in Washington D.C. on Thursday. “The courts have been stacked with conservative justices who have watered down the civil rights acts.”

The legislation, which was endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, would also ban the use of compelled arbitration clauses, which critics says are frequently used to strip away consumer and employee rights.

The bill also would eliminate qualified immunity for government employees, which shields government workers, including police officers, from lawsuits. Attorneys and civil rights groups have argued for years that qualified immunity makes it very difficult to hold cops and other public employees accountable for violating people’s civil rights.

Under the bill, victims of discrimination would be eligible for compensation in lawsuits, and employers could be sued when their employees violate people’s civil rights.

The bill also clarifies the definition of “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, said protesters endangered their lives decades ago to fight for civil rights laws that are now being weakened by consecrative judges.

“These visionary laws were intend to protect people from discrimination and have served as a moral compass for the law for decades,” Bush said. “But for all the progress we have made, we encounter people who want to strip away our civil rights and do it all costs.”

Since Republicans have control of the House, Democrats would need bipartisan support to pass the bill. Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate.

“Democrats are waiting with welcome arms to push this legislation and make civil rights stronger,” U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston said. “This legislation should be passed expeditiously.”

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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