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Celebrating 50 years of civil rights

 

On July 2 the Florida Commission on Human Relations joined the state of Florida and the rest of the nation in recognizing the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Enacted in 1964, this landmark piece of legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. It set forth to end unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public, such as motels and restaurants.

The law’s provisions also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to address race and sex discrimination in the workplace; created a Community Relations Service to help local communities solve racial disputes; authorized federal intervention to ensure the desegregation of schools, parks, swimming pools and other public facilities; and restricted the use of literacy tests as a requirement for voter registration.

As executive director with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, I share in its mission to prevent unlawful discrimination by ensuring that all people in Florida are treated fairly and have access to opportunities on the job, buying or renting a home and visiting certain public places, such as a cafeteria, a gas station, a hotel or a museum. The commission is charged with enforcing the state’s civil rights laws and serving as a resource on human relations for the people of Florida.

It is against Florida law to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or familial status. The commission investigates complaints of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and state employee whistle-blower retaliation.

The commission is also responsible for promoting fair treatment, equal opportunity and mutual respect among members of all economic, social, racial, religious and ethnic groups and works to eliminate discrimination against groups and their members.

As the rest of the nation reflects upon the importance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, let us all here in Florida reflect upon its importance as well.

Michelle Wilson, executive director, Florida Commission on Human Relations, Tallahassee

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