How are civil rights protected?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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Civil rights are a huge and important body of rights. Civil rights, along with political rights, are widely viewed as making up the collection of human rights. The exact definition of civil rights is very broad. The rights found in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, for example, can be seen as civil rights. However, when most people refer to "civil rights," they are referring to a particular right: the right to be free from discrimination.
Anti-Discrimination Civil Rights Laws
Many different laws in the US protect your civil rights. The Constitution, and in particular the amendments found in the Bill of Rights, provide a great deal of protection for these rights, also called "civil liberties." For example, the Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, unreasonable prosecution, and the deprivation of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness without justification. This body of civil rights is enforced by the Supreme Court and by the entire judicial system. If a state or the legislature makes a law that violates the Constitution, you may sue and the courts can strike down that law. On a smaller scale, if your rights against unreasonable search and seizure are violated, the court protects you by excluding from evidence any information uncovered by an illegal search.
As far as the right to be free from discrimination, this too is protected by the courts. It is also protected by laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Federal anti-discrimination legislation protects against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, age, nationality and disability status. Many states also add in sexual orientation to this list of protected classes. If your rights under these laws are violated, you may sue in civil court and collect monetary damages.
If you believe you have been the victim of a civil rights violation, you should call a lawyer for help. Civil rights are fundamental rights and there are plenty of safeguards in the US justice system designed to ensure that your rights are protected.