Civil Rights Coalition Calls for Bi-Partisan Support for New Civil Rights Bill

Media 06.24.04

As the nation looks forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd, America’s civil rights leaders are pointing to the erosion of civil rights protections by an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court.

“It is sadly ironic,” said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, “that on the 40th anniversary of this century’s most far reaching civil rights legislation that we are here today calling for a new law to restore rights rolled back by the courts.”

Speaking on a panel of civil rights leaders commemorating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Henderson said, “Fifty years ago the Supreme Court’s Brown decision struck down the racist educational concept of ‘separate but equal.’ Forty years ago a bi-partisan Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the momentous Civil Rights Act.”

“But for the past few years,” Henderson noted with some disappointment, “an increasingly right-wing judiciary has acted to undercut and weaken America’s civil rights laws.”

Henderson called for bi-partisan support for FAIRNESS: The Civil Rights Act of 2004 which is designed to restore the rights of women, seniors, the disabled, and minorities. “The time has come,” said Henderson, “not simply to remember the past, but to repeat the lessons it teaches – that protecting our rights requires a vigorous and renewed effort to pass legislation.”

Henderson also recalled congressional leaders who made the Civil Rights Act of 1964 possible – Democrats like Hubert Humphrey, Phil Hart, Emanuel Celler and Republicans like Jacob Javitz, Everett Dirksen, William McCulloch, Charles “Mac” Mathias, and John Lindsay. “These giants worked across party lines because they knew that treating some of us as second-class when it comes to rights guaranteed by the Constitution was neither moral nor just, and hardly a beacon for the rest of the world.”

“This is the kind of moral and far-seeing leadership we need today,” Henderson concluded.