WASHINGTON, June 30, 2014 — As we observe the anniversary of our nation's independence this week, the American Bar Association also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, this landmark legislation extended the protections of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights specifically to African Americans but also to others. The Act demolished a rigid policy of de jure and de facto racial segregation that – while almost unimaginable now - was then sanctioned in public accommodations and in the workplace.
The Act also banned discrimination on the basis of gender, religion and national origin, opening up opportunities for women and people of color. The law has since been expanded to provide protection for people with disabilities and the LGBT communities. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 extended the rule of law underpinning our democracy and, even if imperfectly at times, continues to provide opportunities for all Americans.