How do Civil Liberties Differ from Civil Rights?
Often, people use civil liberties and civil rights interchangeably. However, these terms are two different things. Simply put, civil rights are legal rights protecting people against discrimination based on specific categories, including sex, color, origin, race, and more. Civil liberties, on the other hand, are freedoms that protect people from tyranny.
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Overview of Civil Rights
Civil rights are positive actions from the government to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities. Furthermore, it allows everyone to participate in society and get the same government benefits and treatment. Nobody is safe from discrimination, wrongful termination, imprisonment, and other things without civil rights.
In a democratic country, civil rights ensure that all people get equal treatment. This is especially true for those who belong to marginalized citizens in society. The different protected groups are based on several legislations. This includes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). No one can be discriminated against based on the following:
- Sexual orientation
- National origin/ethnicity
- Veteran Status
- Familial Status
Common Civil Rights Violations
Discriminating against anyone from the protected classes above is illegal. If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your sex, sexual orientation, and other things, you have the right to file a complaint. Often, civil rights violations happen in public sectors. It may be in a government establishment, offices, public schools, or commercial places.
Examples of Civil Rights Violations
In the workplace
Some people are denied employment due to their national origin, sexual orientation, color, sex, age, or disability. In addition, employers cannot fire or demote employees due to the same factors aforementioned.
Another example of discrimination in the workplace is when a co-worker, the supervisor, or another team’s supervisor creates a hostile/intimidating work environment to force others of the protected class to quit. Being paid less because of disability, even when one is capable of the job, is another violation.
You can’t deny housing based on one’s sex, familial status, race, or religion. Owning a pet is a valid reason for denial. But if you believe that the reason for rejection is based on any of the categories above, you have a civil rights violation complaint in your hand. The same is true for owning, selling, or getting a mortgage for a home.
Using Excessive Force
Reports from the USA TODAY Network show that more than 85,000 law enforcement officers have been under scrutiny for the past years due to misconduct. Out of these 85,000, over 22,000 cases were because of using excessive force. The victims usually fall under the category of color, national origin, ethnicity, or sexual preference.
Overview of Civil Liberties
Civil liberties are protection against government actions. For example, everyone has the right to choose their religion and practice their faith. Therefore, the government cannot interfere with people’s freedom to worship.
Simply put, civil liberties are your freedoms and rights guaranteed via the Bill of Rights. The Constitution protects it. Civil liberties include the following:
- Unwarranted searches of your home or property
- Remain silent in a police interrogation
- Have a fair court trial
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Civil Liberties vs. Civil Rights
The main difference between the two is the different kinds of guaranteed protection. Thus, civil rights are positive actions from the government to create equal opportunities for all. Civil liberties are protection against government actions. Is it a violation of your rights or your freedom? Ask yourself these questions:
- What right is affected?
- Whose right is affected?
For example, the right to marry:
The right to marry is civil liberty while gay marriage is civil rights. Hence, you have the right to get married regardless of sexual orientation. If the clerk denies the marriage at all, then there’s a violation of your civil liberty. However, if the clerk refuses the marriage because it’s same-sex marriage, then there’s a civil rights violation.
Another example, at school.
Everyone has the civil liberty to get an education. Therefore, if the school doesn’t accept you at all, then your freedom to get an education is violated. However, your civil rights are violated if the school doesn’t accept you or only accepts someone else based on a protected group (race, sex, gender, etc.). Additionally , if you don’t get the same educational materials as everybody else because of your skin color, your rights have been violated.
Make the First Step
If you believe your rights have been violated, you need to go back and determine if the violation is against your liberty or right. If that’s difficult for you, it may be best to ask for help from a professional. Talk to a legal representative and get advice on how to move forward. Doing so lets you understand your legal options.
Before filing a formal complaint, take note of the following guidelines:
- Put the complaints in writing (fax, mail, or via the online form). File civil rights complaints within 180 days that the incident happened.
- Include all the necessary information (name, address, contact details, name of the institution/person/establishment you believe has violated your rights/liberties)
- For civil liberties, submit all the supporting documentation to the indicated address of the U.S. Department of Justice – Office of the Inspector General instead of using their online form.
- Include the subject, ATTN: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints, at the top of your document or fax submission.
Why Hire a Legal Representative
Experienced lawyers know your rights and liberties. They understand full well the laws that protect your civil rights and freedom. Furthermore, legal representatives know how to gather and organize documents and materials to help you get a more favorable settlement. However, do your research before you hire your lawyer. Get a reasonable attorney, not just any attorney.
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