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).
Laws Against Inter-Racial Marriage
Marriage between two people of different skin colors may seem common place in many places today. Many people wouldn’t think twice about it. However, before 1967, inter-racial marriage was illegal in many states. In the Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, represented by the ACLU, took a stand against the state of Virginia and the several instances of discrimination they faced because of their relationship. The Court ruled in favor of the couple, and state bans on inter-racial marriage were deemed unconstitutional.
Separate but Equal
There are certain laws throughout history that might make you really wonder what people were thinking. In a 1896 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court made it legal to segregate public places as long as the treatment was equal. Luckily, to make a long and brutal story short, after many sit-ins and many other peaceful protests, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited this type of discrimination.
Segregation of Public Schools
Laws allowing segregation in public places like restaurants and hotels led to laws allowing the segregation of public schools. While these schools were supposed to be equal, that wasn’t the case. The schools that African American students attended didn’t receive much funding, and the education they received was terrible compared to that of white students.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that in places of public education, “Separate but Equal” didn’t apply (Brown vs. Board of Education) and was a violation of the 14th Amendment.
While this ruling was a victory for civil rights, many states remained stubborn, and in some instances the National Guard had to be called in to get children to school safely. At one point in Arkansas, all public schools were completely closed to prevent any black students from attending. This closure lasted for about a year until in 1959, the Supreme Courts had to step in again to order them re-opened.
Laws Against Same-Sex Marriage
While Loving vs. Virginia was a victory for marriage equality in regards to race, marriage equality in regards to same-sex couples took much longer to happen. Recently, in 2015, the Supreme Court struck down any state prohibitions of same-sex marriage in the ACLU’s Obergefell v. Hodges case.
In 1787, while the constitution was being drafted, there was a controversy over how population within each state should be counted. As slaves were considered property and not as people to be counted, the states stood to lose a number of Representatives in the House. A “compromise” was struck to count each slave as three-fifths of a white person in order to increase the number of Representatives in each state (particularly southern states). This horrible law was finally rendered obsolete in 1865 with the passing of the 13th amendment.
Photo credits: 22. Ted Eytan via flickr, 20. Damien Bariexca via flickr, 18. wsilver via flickr, 15. Max Pixel, 14. nyphotographic via blue diamond gallery 13. Pierre-Selim via wikimedia commons, 12. Democracy Chronicles via flickr, 11. Apple Realty via flickr, 9. Joseluis89 via wikimedia commons, 8. Karen Beate Nøsterud -/norden.org, 7. Kurt Lowenstein Education Center via flickr, 3. Rob Young via flickr, 2. penarc via wikimedia commons