Issue Position: Civil Rights
"The teenagers and college students who left their homes to march in the streets of Birmingham and Montgomery; the mothers who walked instead of taking the bus after a long day of doing somebody else's laundry and cleaning somebody else's kitchen - they didn't brave fire hoses and Billy clubs so that their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren would still wonder at the beginning of the 21st century whether their vote would be counted; whether their civil rights would be protected by their government; whether justice would be equal and opportunity would be theirs. . . . We have more work to do."
- Barack Obama, Speech at Howard University, September 28, 2007
Pay Inequity Continues: For every $1.00 earned by a man, the average woman receives only 77 cents, while African American women only get 67 cents and Latinas receive only 57 cents.
Hate Crimes on the Rise: The number of hate crimes increased nearly 8 percent to 7,700 incidents in 2006.
Efforts Continue to Suppress the Vote: A recent study discovered numerous organized efforts to intimidate, mislead and suppress minority voters.
Disparities Continue to Plague Criminal Justice System: African Americans and Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to be searched, arrested, or subdued with force when stopped by police. Disparities in drug sentencing laws, like the differential treatment of crack as opposed to powder cocaine, are unfair.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan
Strengthen Civil Rights Enforcement
Obama and Bidenwill reverse the politicization that has occurred in the Bush Administration's Department of Justice. They will put an end to the ideological litmus tests used to fill positions within the Civil Rights Division.
Combat Employment Discrimination
Obama and Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes
Obama and Biden will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice's Criminal Section.
End Deceptive Voting Practices
Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
End Racial Profiling
Obama and Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support
Obama and Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
Eliminate Sentencing Disparities
Obama and Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
Expand Use of Drug Courts
Obama and Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
Barack Obama's Record
Record of Advocacy: Obama has worked to promote civil rights and fairness in the criminal justice system throughout his career. As a community organizer, Obama helped 150,000 African Americans register to vote. As a civil rights lawyer, Obama litigated employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and voting rights cases. As a State Senator, Obama passed one of the country's first racial profiling laws and helped reform a broken death penalty system. And in the U.S. Senate, Obama has been a leading advocate for protecting the right to vote, helping to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and leading the opposition against discriminatory barriers to voting.