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Background on Civil Rights

The Reform Movement works on a variety of civil rights issues including LGBT rights, hate crimes legislation, the death penalty and other criminal justice reforms, and Native American rights. Our policies and advocacy also address the affirmative action debate, disability rights and legislative protections from religious discrimination in the workplace.

Civil rights are the non-political rights of citizenry. In the United States those rights are guaranteed by, among other means, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution. More broadly, however, civil rights refer to all those rights that allow a citizen to fully participate in civic society; the struggle for civil rights is a the struggle to achieve equality of opportunity for all, regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

In the 20th century, men and women fought for equal access to voting booths and worked to eliminate discrimination in the housing market, the workplace and in government services. More than 45 years after the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, the United States has done much to combat legal discrimination, but the legacy of racial inequality has yet to be erased. The twenty-first century has grown to include a more diverse America and a greater variety of issues, and even as we work to extend civil rights protections, we must still vigilantly guard those rights earned in earlier decades of struggle.

As Jews, we are intimately acquainted with the effects of bigotry. Our ancestors knew both the continuing indignities of second-class citizenship and the constant fear of xenophobic violence. Our history teaches us that discrimination against any members of a community threatens the security of the entire community.