Civil Rights and Sexual Orientation

Dec 12, 2017

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 changed the trajectory of civil rights law. Previously, the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause had been foregrounded. But the Fourteenth Amendment only covered state action, and it did not prevent private businesses from practicing discrimination. Now, the law switched to the Commerce Clause of the constitution that gave the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce. Through an expansive interpretation of that power, it became very difficult, if not virtually impossible, for private businesses to discriminate against certain protected groups by denying them service on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. Of course, those protected groups did not cover everyone, including rights based on sexual orientation. Thus, certain groups had their rights to service protected whereas others did not.