Equal Protection: Understanding Our Civil Rights and Liberties
What Are Our Civil Rights?
As in the cases of the two Jane Does discussed in the cover article, part of our work at Evans Moore involves fighting back against civil rights violations. Our civil rights are the fundamental personal rights guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution and federal laws enacted by Congress (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964), but many people don’t understand exactly what they are. Let’s break it down.
Civil rights represent our right to equal opportunity and equal protection under the law regardless of gender, race, age, or disability status. Examples include the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to a public education, and the right to use governmental/public facilities.
One very important civil right is the Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity. This right guarantees our citizens the right to be free from physical or sexual assault by governmental actors. A violation of this right can occur if a camp counselor at a state-run camp sexually assaults a minor camper, if a school employee forms an inappropriate romantic or physical relationship with a minor student, or when a law enforcement officer knowingly exposes a detainee to known risk of physical harm (such as the alleged practice of subjecting detainees to “rough rides” as asserted in connection with the death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore). While these examples may sound extreme, the Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity is violated all too often within the borders of our state. This Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity is the very right which the jury found to have been violated in the two Jane Doe trials discussed earlier.
All Americans should strive to be aware of their civil rights because we are our own best protection. No one should ever violate these freedoms, but if they do, we must be prepared to demand justice.