U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress Tuesday to update housing and lending laws, and to take steps to end discrimination against women and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community during Howard University’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Today I’m calling on Congress to renew the spirit of the Civil Rights Act,” he said in a speech at the historically black college in the capital.
The first African American attorney general, Holder had to pace his remarks as people interrupted him with applause and cheers.
He called for workplace protection laws to be strengthened to stop pay discrimination against women and “finally end discrimination against LGBT individuals, by ensuring equal access to education and promoting nondiscriminatory learning environments.”
He also said Congress should pass updated voting rights legislation. Some lawmakers have pushed for amendments to the Voting Rights Act following a Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down a key portion of the historic law that gave the federal government power to regulate how certain states conducted elections.
“After all,” Holder said, “the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an attempt_and a highly successful one_to confront fundamental questions that had bedeviled this nation since its inception, and that justifiably generate controversy even today.”
The Civil Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibits various types of discrimination, including in the workplace and in the unequal application of voting requirements, among others. However, studies show that pay disparities continue between men and women, and the LGBT community continues its calls for equal protections under the law.
“I have no illusions that this task will be easy,” Holder said of the continuing efforts eliminate discrimination. “But as I look around this crowd today of passionate men and women, dedicated to truth and devoted to service, I am confident of our ability to reach that promised land.”