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).
Ban Against Gays Serving in the Military
There’s no doubt that there have been some backwards fears regarding the LBGT community. Starting during World War II, there was a ban on LGBT individuals serving in the US military due to the fear they had an “aggressive personality disorder.” Even men who possessed “feminine characteristics” could be dismissed from the military. Homophobic much?
As a small step in the right direction, President Clinton enacted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993. Even with this policy, the military would cut the service member’s severance in half if they were involuntarily discharged from service due to “homosexuality.” So…We won’t ask; you don’t tell, but if we find out, we’ll discharge you and cut your separation pay in half. In 2010, the ACLU won a major victory on behalf of all servicemen and women who had been discharged under this policy. In Collins vs. the United States, the Court ruled in favor of Collins and other service members included in the class-action law suit.
Finally, in 2011, President Obama lifted any ban on gays being able to openly serve in the military.
After years of being relegated to women’s schools or historically black colleges, affirmative action laws are laws that require places of higher education to seek out and admit students from minority groups based on both gender and race. As recently as 2014, the Supreme Court has ruled that Affirmative Action laws are at the discretion of the state.
No Protection from Age Discrimination
Much like those American’s with disabilities, until 1967, older adults could be turned down for a new job or fired from current jobs. They could also be denied the ability to rent or buy a home just because of their age. Thankfully, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 prevented employers from discriminating against employees and opportunity based on age. This act also prohibits discrimination due to age from any housing provider who receives funding from the federal government.
Laws Preventing Same-Sex Couples from Adopting Children
In addition to the crazy laws in regards to LGBT relationships, there have been crazy laws in regards to adoption across the board. Adoption is a difficult legal process with lots of red tape. To further complicate matters, in the past, most states didn’t grant the adoption of children to couples involved in a same-sex relationship. Luckily, most states are now changing these laws. Recently, the ACLU of Alabama won a major victory when the state overturned their ban on adoptions to gay couples. This recent victory is a sign that more and more states are recognizing that there are loving homes out there for children, no matter the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents.
Private Schools, Racial Discrimination, and Tax Exemption
While racial discrimination was outlawed in public education, what about private education?
While we’ve showed some of the horrible laws created and upheld by the US government, here is one place the US government got things right. In regards to private education, the IRS denied tax-exempt status to private schools that practiced discrimination. In the 1983 case Bob Jones University vs the United States, the Supreme Court decided to uphold that IRS rule.