Civil Liberties vs Civil Rights

Civil Liberties vs Civil Rights

In the United States, concepts of civil rights and civil liberties are often mistaken as one idea. However, civil rights and civil liberties refer to different types of guaranteed protections for the people.

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties establish rights the people have against the federal government. Civil liberties are limiting what the government can control to maintain personal freedoms. Essentially the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments of the Constitution, define and outline the civil liberties for the American people. The first amendment contains the right and freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition. Other amendments in the Bill of Rights protect liberties corresponding with due process and crime. The ninth amendment protects rights that are not specifically stated in the Constitution. The ninth amendment takes into consideration the evolving rights of the people and allows flexibility that would be determined on a case by case standard.

The declared freedoms in the Bill of Rights aligning with civil liberties were not always protected by state governments. Although later amendments are developed to help make some of the civil liberties protected from state governments, Barron v. Baltimore in 1833 established a precedent that the Bill of Rights could not be applied to state governments. There was also a rising concept of every person having dual citizenship with the Barron v. Baltimore case. That is one citizenship with the United States and another citizenship with the state that the person resides in.

Later the 14th amendment fundamentally put into notion that civil liberties are protected by state governments. Everyone born or naturalized in the United States is now granted citizenship and the state was now forbidden to deny any person “life, liberty or property without due process of the law.” Now ideas mentioned in the Bill of Rights such as quartering soldiers in a person’s home or not forcing people to follow a specific religion was illegal for states to impose on their citizens as well. The states can now not deny rights described in the civil liberties. If the states do impose these rights, the citizens have the right to take the issue to the United States Supreme Court to be judged individually by case. Once a state loses a case associated with civil liberties, the precedent is then put into effect for every state.

Civil Rights

Civil rights protect people against private acts of discrimination and engage the idea of an individual to get fair treatment. In such areas as education, employment and housing, an individual’s age, gender, religion, disability and race should not be an influencing factor of how a person is treated. Essentially a person’s characteristics cannot determine whether they should or should not receive something.  There have been many different civil rights movements in history to help keep these rights modified and timely to what the Unites States population desires.

A recent example of a civil rights to be developed in the United States is the right to gay marriage and the act of not discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation. Another prominent civil rights movement began in the 1950’s where the sole object was to end racial discrimination and segregation. In southern states, there were some laws segregating races, while in the north, segregating was sometimes happening due to practice. Neither were right so the civil rights movement began to implement the end of segregation and unfair treatment by race. In the sixty’s, the civil rights movement for women began, called the feminist movement, to help bring awareness to how women were discriminated against in topics such as equal pay in the workplace, maternity leave and sexual harassment.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the most prominent legislation that outlawed and made it illegal for a person to be discriminated against by gender, religion, race and disability. Although this act was difficult to enforce in the beginning, the Constitution has been modified with new amendments to help enforce the concepts of civil rights. Civil rights are also still evolving today and will continue to evolve in the United States.


Did you like our article? Please follow us on Facebook and Linkedin to catch our most recent articles!