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History of the United States

What is the law that banned discrimination?

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September 14, 2011 10:38AM

Various laws have restricted certain kinds of discrimination in

the United States. Like State Legislatures, the Congress of the

United States has the power to pass statutes regulating a wide

range of activity. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, for example, placed

limits on discrimination (among other things) in the workplace and

at businesses that are open to the public.

The decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States are

another source of law because Supreme Court decisions that

interpret the Constitution become the supreme law of the land.

Responding to various cases and controvercies that have come before

it, the Court has repeatedly ruled that no government entity may

discriminate on the basis of race without meeting what is called

"strict scrutiny." For governmental discrimination on the basis of

race to stand, the government must show both a "compelling

interest" and show that no less restrictive means would meet that

interest. The practical impact of this requirement is that

virtually all governmental race discrimination is prohibited. (One

important exception is affirmative action.)

The Supreme Court has similarly ruled that no governmental

entity may discriminate on the basis of gender without meeting what

the Court calls "intermediate scrutiny." In contrast to strict

scrutiny, which requires a compelling governmental interest and

narrowly tailored means to that end, the intermediate scrutiny test

is slightly easier to pass. To pass intermediate scrutiny and

permissibly discriminate on the basis of gender, a governmental

entitly must prove an important government interest and must prove

the means used to reach that end are substantially related to that


While there has not yet been a law that bans all forms of

discrimination in all contexts, stautes passed by Congress and

rulings of the Supreme Court have worked together to combat many of

discrimination's harmful effects.

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