As most of you are aware, the United States has had a tumultuous history with civil rights and crazy laws. We’re not talking about laws that were silly or seemed unnecessary. No. We’re talking about laws that placed those who were innocent in harm’s way. The violation of our civil rights and the horrible laws associated with them targeted people because of their skin color, their national origin, and even their sexual orientation. Many lives were lost due to the consequences of these unjust laws, and a distrust of the government remains even to our present day.
As you will see in this list, dedicated civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are on the front lines, fighting to make sure we avoid laws that are hateful, discriminatory, or downright unfair. While they have made significant progress, more work is needed. As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” so take a trip through history with us as we visit 25 Crazy Laws You Wouldn’t Believe America Would Still Have If It Weren’t For Civil Rights (and let’s not repeat history).
State Laws Against Homosexual Acts Between Consenting Adults
At one point in recent time, what two men or two women did in their own bedroom could land them in jail or with a heavy fine. In fact, prior to 1973, the American Psychiatric Association actually considered those in the LGBT community to have a mental illness. Fortunately, the APA started to see things differently and with the American Medical Association called for a repeal of laws against any same-sex acts between consenting adults in 1975. However, the Supreme Court didn’t act until 1984, when they ruled that states don’t have the right to ban such acts.
There are few hot topics debated as much as a woman’s right to an abortion. While the debate continues, it was a huge victory to pro-choice advocates when in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled to strike down most states’ restrictive abortion laws.
Interested in learning more about the history of women’s rights? Take a look at 25 Intriguing Facts About The History Of The Feminist Movement.
No Protection for Americans with Disabilities
Prior to 1990, Americans with disabilities had no protection in how they worked or lived. To give just one example, this meant that any person in a wheelchair might have been unable to get a job because of a lack of a ramp to get in the front door. While there were no specific laws discriminating against people with disabilities, these “little oversights” in making workplaces accessible to everyone put many Americans at a disadvantage.
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring public places to be accessible to those with disabilities and nixing job discrimination practices against those same people.
Poll Tax/Literacy Test
When African Americans were given the right to vote with the passing of the 15th amendment, the states still found a way to prohibit them from voting. Many states required people to not only pass a literacy test, but also pay a poll tax. Therefore, anyone who couldn’t pay or couldn’t read were excluded from casting their vote at the polls. After the efforts of people like Martin Luther King Jr., these obstacles to voter rights were finally abolished in 1965 with the passing of the Voting Rights Act.
No Equal Housing Opportunities
How would you feel if a landlord denied you an apartment just because you were different from them? This was a reality for many Americans until the passage of the Fair Housing Act (part of the Civil Rights Act) in 1968. Before this, minorities were often prevented from purchasing housing in certain areas, effectively creating segregated communities. Unfortunately, this first Housing Act didn’t work very well, and Congress made amendments in 1988, allowing the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development a large role in enforcing the law.