June 25, 2021

Wyden, Booker, Blumenthal, Jones, Raskin Introduce Legislation to Modernize Federal Civil Rights Law

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said today he has joined with U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) as well as U.S. Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) to introduce legislation that would fulfill the promise of a multiracial economy by setting a new standard for antidiscrimination laws.

The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act of 2021 would revitalize the nation’s first civil rights law, known as Section 1981, which was enacted in the wake of the Civil War to equitably reconstruct the economy and empower Black Americans to fully participate in American economic life. Due to decades of degradation by the Supreme Court, Section 1981 is far less effective than it should be. 

“Congress first enacted Section 1981 to guarantee Black Americans the same legal rights that white Americans enjoyed, but the law has fallen seriously short. People of color, especially Black Americans, have for generations been denied economic opportunity because of racial discrimination that persists,” Wyden said. “The Supreme Court’s decision in the Comcast case made it even more difficult to hold entities engaged in discrimination accountable for their actions. It is necessary that Congress takes all steps to guarantee nondiscrimination for all so that every American can enjoy the same freedoms and equal opportunity.”

The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act of 2021 would guarantee freedom from discrimination throughout the economy by prohibiting any actions with discriminatory effects. Because of a 1982 Supreme Court ruling, today Section 1981 prohibits only intentional discrimination. The bill would also make it easier to prove intentional discrimination by requiring plaintiffs to show only that discriminatory intent was a motivating factor in the violation of the protected right, rather than that racial animus was the sole factor.

“The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act will help victims of racial discrimination vindicate their rights in court.  This bill, if enacted into law, would be a major step forward for equality and justice for communities of color,” said Kadeem Cooper, Policy Counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.