Implementing the Civil Rights Act

The due process protection of the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause give authority to the government to intervene and determine if an act is discriminatory in nature. It was this authority that gave birth to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Act). Mr. Justice Goldberg clarified in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (379 U. S. 241 (1964), that the objective of the Act is the “vindication of human dignity and not mere economics.

”It was further elucidated by the Senate Committee on Commerce (S. Rep. No. 872, 88th Cong. , 2d Sess. , 16. qtd. in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, supra. ) that the Act is trying to prevent the “deprivation of personal dignity” that usually results from discrimination. The said committee further clarified that discrimination is not simply about money but the shame, disappointment and discomfiture that a person feels when he is advised that he is not acceptable as part of the public by reason of his race or color.

Lastly, the committee also stated that it will be difficult to explain to a child that despite his education, courteousness and goodness, he will not be given equal treatment even if he is a citizen of the country which may ask him to sacrifice his life when the need arises. These are the evils sought to be avoided by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act found application in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, supra, wherein the defense claims that their operation is local in nature hence, not covered by the Act.

The Supreme Court brushed aside this argument as evidence revealed that most of the clientele of the hotel in question are from outside the state where it is located. Consequently, the hotel is involved in “interstate commerce” and comes within the ambit of the Act. The nature of “interstate commerce” was also discussed in Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U. S. 294 (1964) wherein the Supreme Court held that even if a restaurant appears to cater primarily to local residents, it will still fall within the context of “interstate commerce” if its meat is sourced outside the state.

The power of Congress to regulate “interstate commerce” is based on the so-called Commerce Clause in the Constitution. In Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1 (1824) Chief Justice Marshall pointed out that the said power of Congress covers that dealing “with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes. '”. Gibbons v. Ogden, ibid. , further stated that the government cannot just wait for the disruption of commerce before it will act. Moreover, the application of the Act is not limited to purely commercial transactions. In University of California Regents v. Bakke, 438 U. S.

265 (1978), the Supreme Court considered as discrimination the system adopted by a medical school wherein it does not simply accept applicants who passed their entrance examinations but instead reserved a fixed quota for “economically and/or educationally disadvantaged” and which criteria was primarily based on race/color. On the other hand, race-based qualification may be allowed if it will promote equal opportunity. However, there must be factual basis for allowing race-based qualification as ruled by the Supreme Court in Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co. , 488 U. S. 469 (1989). Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U. S. 448, 519 (1980) was not applied in Richmond for lack of factual basis. Lastly, the Court held in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education, 476 U. S. 267, that there should be a strict scrutiny of a race-based policy otherwise, the Equal Protection Clause will be violated. Evidently, race-based qualification has to be avoided as morality dictates that every human being has to be treated equally. More importantly, discrimination is against the law.

Works Cited

  • Adarand Constructors v. Pena, 515 U. S. 200 (1995). 23 October 2007. < http://www. oyez. org> and http://www. law. cornell.