13.5 Civil Rights for Minorities and Women
The U.S. has been populated by immigrants coming from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Some of them have remained apart and preserved their identity as "minorities" belonging to all the races of mankind, to every nationality group and every religious faith, have been denied equality of opportunity. Their separate identity as racial minorities, the disabled, homosexuals or women, has left them open to discriminatory action in the fields of housing, education and employment.
13.5a Hispanic Americans
The Hispanic Americans tried to achieve increased voter registration and access to educational opportunities through organizations such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the United Farm Workers Union, La Raza Unida and the League of United Latin American citizens.
13.5b Native Americans
Through the American Indian Movement (AIM), the
Native Americans sought to recover their heritage and raise their
voice after years of neglect and discrimination. Civil disobedience
was used as a weapon by them, to highlight issues of land claims,
as for example through the takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969 and
the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. They were also concerned
about overcoming stereotypes about themselves.
13.5c Disabled Americans
The people who were physically or mentally handicapped, as well as people suffering from AIDS, former drug or alcohol abusers, were protected with regard to transportation, public accommodation, employment and telephone services through the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. It also provides for the application of the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the handicapped who cannot be ignored.
This group did not meet with much success in its efforts against discrimination. It is still debatable as to whether people opting for "lifestyle choices" should be granted special treatment. Gay marriages have not been given legal sanction, as this would entitle such couples for a number of privileges. Further, the armed services do not recruit homosexuals.
Several restrictions against women were removed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included sex among the other criteria (such as race, age, religion and national origin), that could not be discriminated against. The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 also constitutionally protected a womanís right to vote. It was not until the 1980s, women were restrained from owning property.
Successful campaigns for equal employment and salary, as well as against sexual harassment, has been carried out by the National Organization for Women (NOW). After the Civil Rights Act was amended in 1972, federal funds were denied to public and private institutions that carried out discrimination against women. It also imposed a requirement of equality of sports programs in the schools, for both men and women.
Several tests have been used in order to determine discrimination on the basis of sex. These include the rationality test, which considers a law as constitutional if it has rational enough basis. Another is the heightened scrutiny test, and the strict scrutiny test which require a demonstration of "substantial" or "compelling" state interest behind the law.