What is in the Civil Rights Act that Rand Paul does not like?

Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act

Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act with Martin Luther King in the background. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Many people recoiled in horror when Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky, was brought on “The Rachel Maddow Show” to explain why he had criticized the Civil Rights Act.  The Civil Rights Act is a broad term, but he meant the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The law in question was introduced by President John F. Kennedy. After his assassination, President Lyndon Baines Johnson made it his top priority.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

There had actually been previous civil rights legislation entitled Civil Rights Act, but we shall focus on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the time being. (In case you were curious, there are actually eight laws with the title Civil Rights Act.) After two Civil Rights Acts were passed, one in 1957 and one in 1960, President John F. Kennedy authored a Civil Rights Act and sent it to Congress in 1963.  Upon his inheriting office, President Johnson saw to it that the bill would pass.

What the bill did

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 expanded on provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and added a few things of its own. Essentially, any business engaging in interstate commerce cannot discriminate against anyone on basis of race. The government has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, though a business refusing to take payday cash from a customer on a racial basis is pretty stupid.

It does allow for some private entities to discriminate without explicitly defining what exactly private means, giving broad latitude there. The act also ensures more protections against voter discrimination, and makes it easier for civil rights oriented lawsuits to be brought into courts. It made it allowable for the Attorney General to sue anyone in breech of the statutes.

Will Rand Paul rue opening his mouth?

What Rand Paul objected to was Title II. When the bill was passed, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater objected to the same provision, saying “You can’t legislate morality.” (Considering some of the other laws passed through Congress and some laws still on the books, they can’t legislate morally either.) Title II was the provision about commerce, but it grants exemptions to certain private groups, without explicitly defining what that means.

The basis of Rand Paul’s objection

The concern Rand Paul has that a certain provisions of the law may open the door to the stifling of free speech. Granted, at times we have to endure speech that is utterly hateful and odious, but it must remain free for good reason. He also has gone on record that he would not vote to repeal it, and that he despises segregation and racism, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Granted, he may be saying that just because he got busted.

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