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Student Project: Civil Rights Under the Commerce Clause: Civil Rights Act 1964

This guide facilitates the analysis of Civil Rights under the Commerce Clause.

Historical Overview

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub. L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, was enacted on July 2, 1964. The Act's eleven titles prohibit unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. The landmark Supreme Court decisions of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964)  and Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 802 (1964) concerned the public accommodations portion of the Act.

In addition, the Act expanded the Civil Rights Commission, which had been established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957, by giving it additional rules, powers, and procedures.

The legislation was initially proposed by President John F. Kennedy but was opposed in the Senate. President Kennedy sought to give "all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public- hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments." Following President Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the bill forward, urging legislators that "no memorial oration or euology could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long."

The Act ultimately passed in Congress by a Senate vote of 73-27, and House vote of 289-126. The Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Following its passage, the Act lacked any real enforcement authority. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could investigate only external claims of discrimination, and then refer cases to the Justice Department for litigation if reasonable cause was found. However, in 1972,Congress passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and gave the Commission authority to enforce its provisions by initiating its own litigation. The Commission also defined discrimination for the first time following its creation, a term that was not included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Legislative History

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