Civil liberties in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Civil liberties in the United States are certain inalienable rights retained by (as opposed to privileges granted to) citizens of the United States under the Constitution of the United States, as interpreted and clarified by the Supreme Court of the United States and lower federal courts.[1] Civil liberties are simply defined as individual legal and constitutional protections from entities more powerful than an individual, for example, parts of the government, other individuals, or corporations. The liberties explicitly defined, make up the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to privacy.[2] There are also many liberties of people not defined in the Constitution, as stated in the Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The extent of civil liberties and the periphery of the population of the United States who had access to these liberties has expanded over time. For example, the Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible. In the early history of the U.S., most states allowed only white male adult property owners to vote (about 6% of the population).[3][4][5] The 'Three-Fifths Compromise' allowed the southern slaveholders to consolidate power and maintain slavery in America for eighty years after the ratification of the Constitution.[6] And the Bill of Rights had little impact on judgements by the courts for the first 130 years after ratification.[7]

United States Constitution

Freedom of religion

Free Exercise Clause

The text of Article [I] to the United States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791, states that:

"Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [I]

Freedom of expression

Free Speech Clause

The text of Article [I] to the United States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791, states that:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech,"[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [I]

Free Press Clause

The text of Article [I] to the United States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791, states that:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging... the press,"[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [I]

Free Assembly Clause

The text of Article [I] to the United States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791, states that:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging... the right of the people peaceably to assemble,"[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [I]

Petition Clause

The text of Article [I] to the United States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791, states that:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging... the right of the people... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [I]

Free speech exceptions

The following types of speech are not protected constitutionally: defamation or false statements, child pornography, obscenity, damaging the national security interests, verbal acts, and fighting words. Because these categories fall outside of the First Amendment privileges, the courts can legally restrict or criminalize any expressive act within them. Other expressions, including threat of bodily harm or publicizing illegal activity, may also be ruled illegal.[9]

Right to keep and bear arms

The text of Article [II] to the United States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791, states that:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [II]

Sexual freedom

The concept of sexual freedom includes a broad range of different rights that are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The idea of sexual freedom has sprung more from the popular opinion of society in more recent years, and has had very little Constitutional backing. The following liberties are included under sexual freedom: sexual expression, sexual choices, sexual education, reproductive justice, and sexual health.[10] Sexual freedom in general is considered an implied procedure, and is not mentioned in the Constitution.

Sexual freedoms include the freedom to have consensual sex with whomever a person chooses, at any time, for any reason, provided the person is of the age of majority. Marriage is not required, nor are there any requirements as to the gender or number of people you have sex with. Sexual freedom includes the freedom to have private consensual homosexual sex (Lawrence v. Texas).

Equal protection

Equal protection prevents the government from creating laws that are discriminatory in application or effect.

Right to vote

The text of Article XIV to the United States Constitution, ratified July 9, 1868, states that:

"when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one (eighteen) years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one (eighteen) years of age in such State."[8]

— United States Constitution, Article XIV

The text of Article XV to the United States Constitution, ratified February 3, 1870, states that:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."[8]

— United States Constitution, Article XV

The text of Article [XIX] to the United States Constitution, ratified August 18, 1919, states that:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."[8]

— United States Constitution, Article [XIX]

The text of Amendment XXIII to the United States Constitution, ratified January 23, 1964, states that:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."[8]

— United States Constitution, Amendment XXIII

The text of Amendment XXVI to the United States Constitution, ratified July 1, 1971, states that:

"The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age."[8]

— United States Constitution, Amendment XXVI

Fundamental rights

Right to interstate travel

Right to parent one's children

Protection on the high seas from pirates

Right to privacy

Right to marriage

In the 1967 United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia found a fundamental right to marriage, regardless of race. In the 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges found a fundamental right to marriage, regardless of gender.

Right of self-defense

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.ontheissues.org/askme/civil_liberties.htm
  2. ^ http://public.findlaw.com/civil-rights/civil-rights-basics/civil-rights-vs-liberties.html
  3. ^ "Expansion of Rights and Liberties - The Right of Suffrage". Online Exhibit: The Charters of Freedom. National Archives. Retrieved April 21, 2015. 
  4. ^ Murrin, John M.; Johnson, Paul E.; McPherson, James M.; Fahs, Alice; Gerstle, Gary (2012). Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (6th ed.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. p. 296. ISBN 9780495904991. 
  5. ^ Janda, Kenneth; Berry, Jeffrey M.; Goldman, Jerry (2008). The challenge of democracy : government in America (9. ed., update ed.). Houghton Mifflin. p. 207. ISBN 9780618990948. 
  6. ^ "We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident;" An Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Roots of Racism & slavery in America Kenneth N. Addison; Introduction P. xxii
  7. ^ "The Bill Of Rights: A Brief History". ACLU. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k United States Constitution
  9. ^ http://www.firstamendment.com/firstamendment.php
  10. ^ http://www.glaa.org/archive/2010/woodhullreport1019.pdf

Further reading

  • Alexander, Keith L. Lawsuit Seeks Right to Carry Concealed Weapons in the District. Www.washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post, 8 Aug. 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2009.
  • American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU.org. n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2009.
  • FindLaw. First Amendment - Religion and Expression. FindLaw for Legal Professionals. FindLaw, 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2009.
  • Gordon, Jesse. Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights. OnTheIssues.org. Ed. Jesse Gordon. Jesse Gordon, 3 Aug. 2000. Web. 29 Sept. 2009.
  • Scalia, Antonin. District of Columbia v. Heller. Oyez.org. The US Supreme Court Media, June 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2009.
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