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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

	Anti-Discrimination Legislation

The basic law of the United States is the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and subsequently ratified by all thirteen then-existing American states. It is considered the world's first constitution in the modern sense. Consisting of seven articles, twenty-seven amendments have been adopted during the term of the Constitution and are an integral part of it. The separation of powers between the legislative (congress), executive (president) and judicial (supreme court and lower courts) branches is the basis of the Constitution. The U.S. states are given broad rights in the field of legislation.

The Bill of Rights is the basis of U.S. human rights law. The Bill of Rights is the general name of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which guarantee certain individual rights of citizens and consequently limit the powers of government agencies. The amendments were proposed by James Madison in the first U.S. Congress in 1789, approved by Congress that year, and ratified by the states by the end of 1791. The Bill of Rights was adopted at the initiative of those politicians and publicists (in particular, Thomas Jefferson, who did not participate in the Constitutional Convention), who considered the lack of the list of basic individual rights (listing the purposes of the Constitution in the preamble seemed insufficient to them), which could become a basis for infringement of rights in the future, a drawback of the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights guaranteed U.S. citizens the following rights and freedoms:

  1. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition. Prohibition on establishing an official state religion.
  2. The right to keep and bear arms.
  3. Prohibition on soldiers being stationed in private homes without the owner's consent.
  4. Prohibition of arbitrary searches and arrests.
  5. Right to due process of law, right not to testify against oneself, guarantee of private property.
  6. Rights of the criminal defendant, including the right to a jury trial.
  7. Right to trial by jury in civil cases.
  8. Prohibition of excessive bail and fines, cruel and unusual punishments.
  9. The enumeration of rights in the Constitution should not be construed to diminish other rights.
  10. Powers not expressly reserved to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states and citizens.

For 200 years, the U.S. has developed an effective human rights system affecting minorities. It is based on 6 sets of anti-discrimination laws: on racial minorities and indigenous peoples, on religious organizations (since the 1st Amendment to the Constitution), on persons with disabilities, on gender equality, on sexual minorities, and on the prohibition of age discrimination. Despite such well-developed anti-discrimination laws and rich jurisprudence, cases of discrimination still occur in the United States. For example, in 1991 the pay gap between white men and women of the same age and education, living in the same region and working in the same industry, having the same marital status and membership in a labor union was 36%. According to the Census Bureau, in 1999 the wage gap between whites and blacks was at least 25%. White workers earned an average of $42,439, Hispanics $28,330, and African Americans $25,351. By 2010, the gender pay gap had narrowed. For example, the pay gap between men and women between the ages of 35 and 44 (non-union) is 13.3 percent. The pay gap between whites and African-Americans is slightly larger at 20 percent.

In recent years, the U.S. government has taken significant steps to improve in the areas of nondiscrimination, hate crimes, and counterterrorism. In particular, in December 2018, U.S. President D. Trump signed a very important criminal justice reform law aimed at reducing the prison population. This is a serious issue and it also affects minorities. State and federal prisons in the United States hold more than 2 million people, the highest of any country in the world. Another 4.4 million people are on probation or parole. General problems with the U.S. criminal justice system affect minorities disproportionately. Although blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population, they are incarcerated at such higher levels than whites that they make up 33% of the prison population. Hispanics are incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of whites. According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2018, black men were incarcerated at 5.8 times the rate of white men, and black women were incarcerated at 1.8 times the rate of white women. Muslims are also overrepresented in state prisons. They make up about 9% of inmates in state prisons, although they make up only about 1% of the U.S. population.

The U.S. Congress passed the Fair Jobs Act of 2019 (the Fair Jobs Act) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed on December 17, 2019. This federal "prohibition" law prohibits federal agencies and federal contractors from asking about a job applicant's criminal record until a conditional offer of employment is made. The Fair Chance for Employment Act will go into effect two years after its passage. The measure provides exemptions for three types of positions, including: (1) positions involving law enforcement and national security responsibilities; (2) positions requiring access to classified information; and (3) positions for which the law requires access to criminal history information prior to the conditional offer stage.

Several attempts of the U.S. administration's to undermine asylum have been successfully challenged and thwarted in the courts, including: the "zero-tolerance" policy; denying asylum seekers their right to have their case heard in immigration court; and arbitrarily detaining asylum seekers even after they have been interviewed by federal immigration authorities. A federal judge blocked the injunction, citing entirely the administration's failure to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. § 249 is a landmark civil rights statute. It gave the FBI the freedom to investigate hate crimes without the barriers that were included in 18 U.S.C. § 245 (Federally Protected Activities), which covered only hate crimes committed while the victim was engaged in federally protected activities, such as voting or going to school. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Act allows for federal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the law, "it is a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily harm or attempt to cause it with a dangerous weapon because of the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin." The Act also covers crimes committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, or disability of any person if the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime or territorial jurisdiction.

The Act expanded the 1969 federal hate crimes law and relaxed prior restrictions, and provided protections for persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, and provided legal protections for transgender persons. It gave the FBI more freedom to investigate hate crimes motivated by prejudice against a person's sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability, in addition to those categories of people protected under the previous law. In addition, the FBI has provided more funding and technical assistance to state and local governments. In addition, a number of laws were passed that equated certain acts with hate crimes.

For example, in February 2016, the Fair Housing Act was passed, which made it a crime to use or threaten to use force to violate the right to housing because of the victim's race, color, religion, sex, disability, marital status, or national origin.

In March 2019, the United States Arson Prevention Act 247, 18 U.S.C. , which makes it illegal to intentionally deface, damage, or destroy religious real property because of the religious nature of the property, or because of a person's race, color, or ethnicity, as a hate crime and, therefore, treats it as an aggravating factor.

On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Racial Equality Executive Order. The decree, despite the fact that it was largely declarative, aims to conduct an assessment of fairness in federal agencies. The head of each agency, or their designee, should select specific agency programs and policies for review that will assess whether underserved communities and their members face systemic barriers to accessing the benefits and opportunities provided by those policies and programs.

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