In 1985, Clarence Thomas, then Chairman of the EEOC, was attempting to implement regulations so that proving employment discrimination would become more difficult. A group of civil rights advocates came together to challenge his new regulations and won! Thus, the California Civil Rights Coalition was born.
The founders of CCRC recognized that advocates from different issue areas needed to come together to seek a just and healthy California for all. In the same manner that counties offer mutual aid to each other, civil rights-minded activists, lawyers, scholars, advocates, policy-makers, students and community members must also come to each other’s aid and/or defense. They imagined a California that integrates all people into the folds of society with equal access to opportunity and the pursuit of happiness.
Since then, CCRC has successfully blocked the confirmation of conservative judges such as Judge Robert Bork, and has also fought against the passage of racist and discriminatory ballot initiatives such as Prop 187 in 1994, Prop 209 in 1996 and Prop 8 in 2008. In addition, CCRC held a tribunal at Stanford to investigate the abuse of workers and other unfair labor practices at Webb Ranch. It has regularly facilitated the support of the coalition to our member’s efforts to seek progressive policy for our constituents.
Today, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary, CCRC has over 100 organizational members statewide and supports our member’s issues anywhere from disability rights to housing access, from immigrants rights to economic justice. And though we haven’t made it to the promised land yet, we know we can get there if we stand together.
Disability rights are broadly protected under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which ensures all business establishments in California, such as housing and public accommodations not discriminate based on age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
More pointedly, California Civil Codes Sections 54 through 55.2 and Title 24 California Code of Regulations clearly state that “individuals with disabilities or medical conditions have the same right as the general public to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices, public facilities, and other public places.” And, similarly, people “with disabilities are entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public, to all housing accommodations offered for rent, lease, or compensation.”
But while the rights of the disable seem well enough protected, California’s budget crisis presents a new wave of challenges.
CCRC Members Who Advocate and/or Litigate for Disability Rights:
Though we as a state have made great stride toward ensuring equality and ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is still much work to be done to secure the safety and full protection of rights for the LGBTQ community. In California, the LGBTQ community still faces discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, healthcare, and more.
Same-sex couples still face serious challenges when seeking to adoption or foster parent, alternative insemination, assisted reproduction, child custody and visitation, and partnership protection; they are denied surviving partner rights and other healthcare issues like living wills, medical power of attorney, senior and assisted-living facilities, sex reassignment surgery, family planning, fertility treatment, a women’s right to choose, and HIV status all need to be addressed. Bi-national couples are still not recognized by immigration law, yet face persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status, which should be a recognized cause for seeking asylum. Our LGBTQ youth still suffer from school harassment and bullying.
Despite Califorinia’s May 2008 victory where the Supreme Court held same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry, in November 2008 California voters passed Proposition 8. This initiative amended the California Constitution to provide recognition of marriages held only between a woman and a man. Though challenges to Proposition 8 were not successful in State court, in August 2010 United States district court Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Prop. 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Protection of and advocacy for marriage equality and relationship recognition, including civil unions and domestic partnerships, is an important aspect of the full integration of the LGBTQ community because it affects many of the issues listed above with regard to partner and family protections.
CCRC is fighting for all of the protections and more. Our members are engaged in litigation efforts on both the state and federal level as well as offer direct services and take part in advocacy and policy changes to ensure the LGBTQ community’s civil rights are secured and protected.
CCRC Members Who Advocate and/or Litigate for LGBT Rights:
In 1996, California passed Prop 209, which banned consideration of race or gender in public education, public contracting, and public employment. As a result, many programs designed to ensure equal opportunity for women and people of color within California’s public agencies and institutions were immediately disbanded.
Prior to Proposition 209’s passage, California was a national leader with respect to inclusive hiring and admissions practices and was making notable progress towards leveling the playing field for women and people of color. Unfortunately, in the years since 209’s passage this progress has been stymied, and in many cases reversed. Our public schools and universities have quickly begun to re-segregate, and often do not remotely reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our state. Additionally, businesses owned by women and people of color continue to face barriers to full and equal participation in the marketplace, and many have gone out of business due to persistent discrimination and the lack of programs designed to counteract these barriers. In short, Prop 209 has reversed many of the civil rights accomplishments in California by removing critical and necessary tools designed to ensure equal opportunity for all Californians.
In order to assure that women and people of color are able to compete fairly for jobs, contracts and educational opportunities, CCRC, in partnership with Equality Justice Society and other progressive allies, is exploring the viability of repealing Prop 209. In the interim, we must continue fighting to preserve and where possible expand the limited equal opportunity programs that do exist in California.
Despite the progress made in recent decades, the experiences of women and communities of color across the state indicate that we are far from “post-racial” or that we have achieved full equality for all Californians.
CCRC Members Who Advocate and/or Litigate for Equal Opportunity: