Civil liberties in the United States

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Civil liberties in the United States are certain unalienable 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 explicitly defined liberties 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 percentage 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[edit]

Freedom of religion[edit]

The text of Amendment 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, Amendment I

Freedom of expression[edit]

Free Speech Clause[edit]

The text of Amendment 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, Amendment I

Free Press Clause[edit]

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

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

— United States Constitution, Amendment I

Free Assembly Clause[edit]

The text of Amendment 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, Amendment I

Petition Clause[edit]

The text of Amendment 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, Amendment I

Free speech exceptions[edit]

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[edit]

The text of Amendment 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, Amendment II

Sexual freedom[edit]

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[edit]

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

Right to vote[edit]

The text of Amendment 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 Amendment 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 Amendment 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, Amendment 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

Right to parent one's children[edit]

The right to parent one's own children also includes the right for a parent to teach their children as they see fit, and not have others govern over what their children are taught.

Right to privacy[edit]

The Constitution of the United States and United States Bill of Rights do not explicitly include a right to privacy.[11] Currently no federal law takes a holistic approach to privacy regulation.

In the US, privacy and associated rights have been determined via court cases and the protections have been established through laws.

The Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) found that the Constitution guarantees a right to privacy against governmental intrusion via penumbras located in the founding text.[12]

In 1890, Warren and Brandeis drafted an article published in the Harvard Law Review titled "The Right To Privacy" that is often cited as the first implicit finding of a U.S. stance on the right to privacy.[13]

Right to privacy has been the justification for decisions involving a wide range of civil liberties cases, including Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which invalidated a successful 1922 Oregon initiative requiring compulsory public education; Roe v. Wade, which struck down an abortion law from Texas, and thus restricted state powers to enforce laws against abortion; and Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas sodomy law, and thus eliminated state powers to enforce laws against sodomy. Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization later overruled Roe v. Wade, in part due to the Supreme Court finding that the right to privacy was not mentioned in the constitution,[14] leaving the future validity of these decisions uncertain.[15]

Legally, the right of privacy is a basic law[16] which includes:

  1. The right of persons to be free from unwarranted publicity
  2. Unwarranted appropriation of one's personality
  3. Publicizing one's private affairs without a legitimate public concern
  4. Wrongful intrusion into one's private activities
In 2018, California set out to create a policy promoting data protection, the first state in the United States to pursue such protection. The resulting effort is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), reviewed as a critical juncture where the legal definition of what privacy entails from California lawmakers' perspective. The California Consumer Protection Act is a privacy law protecting the residents of California and their Personal identifying information. The law enacts regulation over all companies regardless of operational geography protecting the six Intentional Acts included in the law.

Right to marriage[edit]

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.

Rights of self-defense[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "AskMe: Civil liberties vs. Civil rights".
  2. ^ Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties
  3. ^ "Expansion of Rights and Liberties - The Right of Suffrage". Online Exhibit: The Charters of Freedom. National Archives. Archived from the original on July 6, 2016. Retrieved April 21, 2015.[dead link]
  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. ^ Basic Information About the First Amendment & Censorship
  10. ^ http://www.glaa.org/archive/2010/woodhullreport1019.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ "The Right of Privacy The Issue: Does the Constitution protect the right of privacy? If so, what aspects of privacy receive protection?". University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  12. ^ R.H. Clark (1974). "Constitutional Sources of the Penumbral Right to Privacy". Villanova Law Review. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  13. ^ Warren, Samuel; Brandeis, Louis D. (1890). "The Right to Privacy". Harvard Law Review. 4: 193. doi:10.2307/1321160. JSTOR 1321160. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  14. ^ "Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending right to abortion upheld for decades". NPR.org. Retrieved 2022-06-25.
  15. ^ Frias, Lauren. "What is Griswold v. Connecticut? How access to contraception and other privacy rights could be at risk after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade". Business Insider. Retrieved 2022-06-25.
  16. ^ "The Legal Right to Privacy | Stimmel Law". www.stimmel-law.com. Retrieved 25 June 2021.

Further reading[edit]