Civil Rights

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS IN CALIFORNIAImmigrant man holding american flag

What are “civil rights”?

When people talk about civil rights, this generally includes fundamental rights we have as individuals to participate in society as equals. More specifically, it includes concepts such as freedom of expression, free exercise of religion, voting rights, rights against law enforcement overreach, “innocent until proven guilty,” and rights against unfair discrimination.

Here are the various types of civil rights and what is protected:

1. Free Speech and Expression

2. Religious rights

You have the right to freely exercise your religion, and the government may not force any religion upon you.1U.S. Constitution, 1st amendment This is known as a “wall of separation between church and state.”

3. Innocent until proven guilty

This is also known as the right to “due process of law,” meaning that the government may not take certain actions against you until they prove in an independent judicial proceeding that you have committed a crime.2U.S. Constitution, 5th amendment

4. Rights against law enforcement overreach

Generally you have the right against the government performing unreasonable searches of you and unreasonable taking of your property.3U.S. Constitution, 4th amendment See Police Conduct for more.

5. Citizenship

In general, every person born on U.S. soil is a citizen of the United States, and others have the right to become citizens through a process known as “naturalization.” The government generally may not strip citizenship from any person, except in limited circumstances ( including treason).4Afroyim v Rusk (1967); INA Sec 349

6. Voting Rights

7. Rights against unfair discrimination

In general, individuals in California are protected from many forms of discrimination, on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and certain other characteristics. See below for specifics, or about discrimination in employment and housing.

Race & Racial issues

  • In general, the government may not discriminate on the basis of race.5U.S. Constitution, equal protection clause of 14th amendment, incorporated by Supreme Court into 5th amendment to apply to federal government
  • Employers may not take any discriminatory actions against employees or prospective employees on the basis of their race.6Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Restaurants, shops, etc. cannot refuse to serve people on the basis of their race7Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Affirmative Action in college admissions is constitutional8Abigail Fisher v Univ of Texas
  • Racial gerrymandering (drawing voter district lines on the basis of race) is unconstitutional9Shaw v Reno (1993)

Gender

  • In general, the government may not discriminate on the basis of gender or sex.10U.S. Constitution, equal protection clause of 14th amendment, incorporated by Supreme Court into 5th amendment to apply to federal government
  • Employers may not take any discriminatory actions against employees or prospective employees on the basis of their gender or sex.11Civil Rights Act of 1964

Sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity

  • In general, the government may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.12U.S. Constitution, equal protection clause of 14th amendment, incorporated by Supreme Court into 5th amendment to apply to federal government
  • Same sex couples may not be denied the right to be married13Obergefell v Hodges

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