How is the Civil Rights Act impacted by checks and balances?

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The Civil Rights Act was signed into law by US president Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1964. Widely considered one of the great victories of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr, the legislation made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity and outlawed public segregation. The ban on racial segregation also applied to schools and the workplace.

After the Civil Rights Act became the law of the land, it became subject to the United States’ system of checks and balances. ”Checks and balances” refers to a principle of governance that aims to create stability between separate branches of government. Separate branches are able to curb the powers of others so that power is shared and not isolated.

In the United States, there are three branches of federal government: legislative (the House and Senate), executive (the president and cabinet) and judicial (the Supreme Court). If a US president attempted to undermine the Civil Rights Act through executive power, that decision would be subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court would have to decide whether such a decision violates the Civil Rights Act. The same would apply if the legislative branch were to pass a bill that discriminates on the basis of race. The American system of checks and balances would mean that decision would be checked by the executive (who would be able to veto and nullify the bill, preventing it from becoming law) and the judicial branch, which would test the law’s constitutionality. The executive branch is largely responsible for curbing the powers of the judicial branch, since it has the power to appoint justices.

While the Civil Rights Act became law in 1964, attitudes toward race did not change overnight; the law has had to be enforced. Each branch has a role to play in the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act. This is to make sure that citizens are regarded as equals in the eyes of the law, regardless of race or ethnicity.

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is affected by all three branches of the federal government. It was passed by both houses of Congress and sent to President Johnson who signed the bill into law. Johnson and subsequent presidents have been responsible for its enforcement. The Supreme Court has used the Civil Rights Act of 1946 as a precedent for rulings on whether or not someone is acting within their constitutional rights. The Supreme Court also ruled that the law itself was constitutional since it positively affects how one experiences the citizenship granted to all by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Checks and balances are used to ensure that no one branch of government becomes more powerful than the others. The President can appoint justices who take a liberal approach to interpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Whoever he/she appoints, Congress must approve of them. Though given Johnson's background, he would have been likely to sign the bill into law, Congress could have overridden a potential presidential veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

If the president was found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors concerning the Civil Rights Act, he could potentially be impeached by Congress, though this action is quite rare in American history. Johnson saw the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as an important part of what he hoped would be a strong domestic program.

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Like all laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is subject to checks and balances. These include being approved by all three branches of government. Congress wrote and voted on the law, the President (in this case Lyndon Johnson) signed the law, and the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of the law. The Executive Branch is then in charge of seeing that the law is properly enforced.

Checks and balances specifically in relation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 usually relate to decisions made by the Supreme Court and other federal courts. For instance, soon after the law's passage, the Supreme Court settled the idea of its constitutionality in the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States. Here, the Court determined that private businesses need to abide by the law as per the stipulations in the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. More recently, in 2017 a US federal court of appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies protections based on sexual orientation. There are many other court cases that have evaluated the way the Civil Rights Act can be applied and the protections it affords. These can be seen as checks made by the Judicial Branch over the way the law is enacted and enforced.

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The Civil Rights Act is impacted by checks and balances in the following ways. First, the Civil Rights Act is a law, and laws cannot enforce themselves. In order to have meaning and power, they have to be enforced by the executive branch. Not long after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order giving the attorney general the authority to coordinate the various bureaus and agencies of the federal government in enforcing it. The Civil Rights Act itself empowers the attorney general to bring suits to withhold federal funds from institutions that violate the provisions of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating. Additionally, government agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been created specifically to enforce the law. While it is the president's responsibility to enforce the laws, the reality is that the executive often chooses to place less emphasis on enforcing some laws than others. More often, in determining the best course of action in enforcement, the president may interpret the law in a way that is different from its original intent. The parts of Title VII (the section of the Act that banned discrimination in employment) that referred to gender and sex were not as enforced early on as those relating to race. Another way the Civil Rights Act is subject to checks and balances is through the process of judicial review. Its constitutionality was broadly upheld by the Supreme Court shortly after its passage in the case Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US, which applied its requirements to private institutions through the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Similarly, the Court has expanded the scope of the law to include employer practices as well as intentional, blatant discrimination. At the same time, the Court could always throw out some aspects of the law, as it did with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 2013 decision. So like any other law passed by Congress, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is subject to the actions of the other branches, which is the definition of checks and balances.

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