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JONES, RASKIN, BLUMENTHAL, BOOKER, WYDEN INTRODUCE LANDMARK LEGISLATION TO MODERNIZE FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAW

June 24, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congressmen Mondaire Jones (NY-17) and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT),Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act of 2021, bicameral legislation to fulfill the promise of a multiracial economy by setting a new standard for antidiscrimination laws.

The bill 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. 

Specifically, the Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act 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 but-for cause.

“More than 150 years after its passage, the civil rights protections enshrined in Section 1981 have yet to be fully realized,” said Congressman Jones. “Thanks in large part to a series of poorly reasoned Supreme Court decisions, racial discrimination remains legal in far too many aspects of our economy and our society. This bill would change that by making it easier for victims of racial discrimination to prevail in court. As we work to root out systemic racism in America, I’m proud to introduce the Civil Rights and Economic Inclusion Act of 2021 to outlaw discrimination that should have been banned long ago.”

“The best time to have fully enforced the rights sacred to all people in Section 1981 was when it was enacted into law in 1866,” said Congressman Raskin. “The second best time is right now.  The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act will strike a blow against persistent racial discrimination and serve as an engine of economic opportunity by ensuring that all people’s civil rights are equally enforced in our economy.”

“The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act of 2021 will help restore the unrealized promise of an economy in which all Americans have full, equal opportunity, free from racial discrimination,” said Senator Blumenthal. “In the wake of the Civil War, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to guarantee that all Americans had the same rights to enter into contracts – but decades of bad court decisions have blocked Black Americans and other racial minorities from relying on this law to hold companies accountable for violations of their civil rights.”

”Enacted 155 years ago, Section 1981, the nation’s first civil rights law, sought to equitably reshape the American economy for Black people following the Civil War,” said Senator Booker. “Over the years, the Supreme Court has unfortunately eroded these critical protections. The Civil Rights and Economic Inclusion Act of 2021 would help reverse these decisions and address the stark inequities in our nation’s economy, granting greater opportunities to Black Americans and other minorities.  

“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,” Senator 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 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.

“Prioritizing reparative justice in our legal system requires sweeping legislation that guarantees civil rights protections and economic justice for Black communities,” said Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, senior campaigns director at Color Of Change. “Not only has civil rights legislation, such as Section 1981, been stymied — all too often, the outcome is that white supremacists use legal loopholes to circumvent the civil rights laws that were intended to ensure protections for Black people on a federal level. When these violations of federal law go unchecked, racialized violence and systemic inequities enable the continued exploitation of Black communities. Revitalizing Section 1981 is a step toward the expansive legislation needed to prioritize racial justice and strengthen the political power of Black communities to combat civil rights violations. Color Of Change supports Senator Blumenthal’s Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act of 2021 and will continue to commend the efforts to modernize comprehensive civil rights provisions.”

About Mondaire: Mondaire Jones is the 34-year-old Congressman from New York’s 17th District, serving Westchester and Rockland Counties. He serves on the House Judiciary, Education and Labor, and Ethics Committees and is the first openly gay, Black member of Congress. A product of East Ramapo public schools, Mondaire was raised in Section 8 housing and on food stamps in the Village of Spring Valley by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to provide for their family. He later graduated from Stanford University, worked at the Department of Justice during the Obama Administration, and graduated from Harvard Law School. He is a co-founder of the nonprofit Rising Leaders, Inc. and has previously served on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors and on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Most recently, Mondaire worked as a litigator in the Westchester County Law Department. In November, Mondaire was unanimously elected by his colleagues to be the Freshman Representative to Leadership, making him the youngest member of the Democratic House leadership team. In December, Jones was appointed a Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and became a Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. Mondaire was born and raised in Rockland and resides in Westchester.

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