Outside Legal Counsel PLC

MLK Day: Celebrate Your Civil Rights

For Immediate Release | Jan 14, 2011

UPDATED - Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, while confined in the Birmingham jail, that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

This quote from Dr. King's letter was written in a response to a statement made by clergymen who believed that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets.

During Dr. King’s life, he fought for many of the civil rights now enjoyed by the citizens of our state and our nation. Today, several important state and federal laws exist to give and protect citizens’ civil rights.

At the federal level, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 protects against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, color, sex, disability, pregnancy, and national origin by governmental agencies, any entity receiving federal funding, and certain private entities. Federal laws also ban certain types of discrimination in employment, public facilities, public schools, public accommodations, housing, and the voting booth. Numerous additional laws have been passed that have expanded or amended federal laws that provide basic civil rights.

Michigan law also provides state-wide legal protections under the expansive Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. Under these state laws, Michigan has expanded civil rights to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, disability, or marital status.

As Dr. King explained, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

To learn more about state and federal civil rights, visit the Michigan Department of Civil Rights where you can learn more about your rights as a Michigander. Also visit the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights website for a full collection of publications on understanding federal civil rights enforcement by major agencies in the federal government.