A 60-YEAR MARCH REQUIRES SOME STRETCHING: THE STATUTORY EXPANSION OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964January 19, 2023
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“CRA”) gives individuals the right to equal enjoyment of public goods and services without discrimination. Although slow-moving, the CRA’s, and relevant state civil rights laws’, statutory language has historically been stretched to provide increased anti-discriminatory coverage in order to accommodate the humanitarian interests and progressive trends of modern society.
This Article discusses the statutory construction hoops through which the CRA and state civil rights laws have been forced in order to accommodate the universal reliance on technology that resulted, in large part, from the technological blitzkrieg that bombarded American society duringCOVID-19 shutdowns. The CRA has been routinely expanded to provide broader coverage when demanded by policy goals, and current policy suggests that the CRA has some catching up to do. Common law trends and congressional intent behind civil rights laws support that “any place of public accommodation,” language frequently included in state and federal civil rights statutes (including the CRA), should expand to include within its coverage virtual accommodations such as websites, applications, and online events when such accommodations are deemed “public” in the context of relevant statutes. Expansion here is proper given the multifarious uses of technology as a fundamental resource for serving the public at large. Including cyberspace as “any place of public accommodation” in the CRA would generate a newfound, but proper, expansion of civil protections against discrimination because it would eliminate the outdated requirement that a space must have a significant connection to a physical facility in order to be covered by the Act.
The CRA and state civil rights laws also provide for the “equal enjoyment” of these public goods and services. Therefore, new to the civil rights policy discussion is whether the Americanpeople can benefit from the “equal enjoyment” of public resources that are offered through virtual accommodations when current access to technology is grievously unequal. The ubiquitous adoption of modern technology brings technology and civil rights law to a nexus. Accordingly,this Article argues that modern society is facing exposure to a new realm of civil rights issues as a result of digital discrimination, and it is both the duty and desire of civil rights laws to address and promote equality-inducing solutions in order to achieve the “equal enjoyment” of basic public goods and services.
Author: Rachel Coutinho
Volume 24, Issue 2