by Jake Davis
In 1987 Congress approved the Civil Rights Restoration Act. It was vetoed by then President Ronald Reagan, but Congress voted to override his veto and it became law in 1988.
The New Law
The new law said that organizations that receive federal funds (money from the government) must obey civil rights laws in all areas of their organization, not just the department, program, or activity that received the funding. This made sure that no federal money goes to organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, disability, or nationality.
“When the government hands out checks, it has a right to attach conditions, and one condition is that you can’t discriminate if you take public money,” said Rep. James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.).
Debate About the Law
Others, like Reverend Jerry Falwell, said the law would require churches and other private organizations to promote ideas they did not believe in. Falwell said it would require churches to hire “homosexual drug addicts with AIDS as youth pastors,” but supporters of the law said this was exaggeration and a warped version of the truth.
Rep. W.G. Hefner (D-NC.) described these statements as “reprehensible.”
“No job is important enough for me to lie to the American people,” Hefner said on the House floor. “If I have to cave in to false information--no job is worth it.”
Supporters of the law include civil rights groups and major religious organizations that said the legislation was important to making sure that federal funds are not used to pay for discrimination.
What is a Veto?
Any bill passed by Congress must be signed by the president in order for it to become a law. If the president does not sign the bill it is called a veto. Congress can override a president's veto with a ⅔ majority vote in both the House of Representatives (representatives) and the Senate (senators).
President Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act was the first time in over a century that a sitting president tried to block a major civil rights law (Eaton, 1988). It was the ninth time during the Reagan presidency that Congress overrode his veto.
What the Law Covers
The law applies to a number of federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Title IX states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This means women cannot be discriminated against or left out from participating in organizations or groups because of their gender. It also means that women must receive equal opportunity in academics and athletics.
The 1973 Rehabilitation Act prevents discrimination against people with disabilities and gives civil rights protections to them. They cannot be turned down for jobs, benefits, or other opportunities because they have a disability.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that businesses, organizations or programs receiving federal funds must not discriminate based on a person's race, color, or national origin (the country in which they are born).
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a law passed in 1967 that stops companies from discriminating against employees 40 years of age or older. The law prevents companies from participating in “ageism” or discrimination against people because of their advanced age.
The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 makes sure that none of these forms of discrimination are allowed for organizations that receive federal funding. In doing so, the government makes sure that federal money does sponsor discrimination in any form.
Eaton, William J. “Congress Rejects Rights Bill Veto : President Suffers Major Defeat as Republicans Help Enact New Law.” Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 198AD, articles.latimes.com/1988-03-23/news/mn-1859_1_civil-rights-bill.
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I often struggle to find websites with thorough explanations in simple language to help kids understand historical events or scientific concepts, so I decided to create some of my own!