Most laws prohibiting discrimination, and many legal definitions of "discriminatory" acts, originated at the federal level through either:
The Civil Rights Act, a ground-breaking piece of legislation when it was enacted in 1964, established many civil rights in various aspects of life including: public accommodations and public facilities, education, voting, and employment. For instance, Title VII granted employees the right to a discrimination free workplace by prohibiting employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, color, race, religion, and national origin by employers.
Other examples of federal legislation that provide civil rights include the following:
Federal Court Decisions
Civil rights also stem from federal court decisions especially U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Brown v. The Board of Education is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated state laws that established separate public schools for black and white students. Brown granted the right to have integrated public school by overturning Plessy v. Ferguson which had established the "separate but equal" doctrine.
Today, most states have civil rights laws of their own which mirror those at the federal level. For example, in the state of Texas, Title 2 Chapter 21 of the Labor Code prohibits employment discrimination. Many of the mandates in this Texas law are based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law making employment discrimination unlawful.
Municipalities within states (such as cities, counties, and towns) can create their own civil rights laws or ordinances, which may or may not resemble the laws of the state itself. For example, a city may pass legislation requiring domestic partner benefits for city employees and their same-sex partners, even though no such law exists at the state level.
Talk to a Civil Rights Attorney Today
It is helpful to know the origin of the civil rights laws that protect us from discrimination. It is even more helpful to know how to deal with the injustice of a civil rights violation. If you are facing housing discrimination, disability discrimination, or another civil rights violation, then you should talk to a civil rights attorney. An attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim and can help you take the proper steps to address your legal issue.