Difference Between Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

When discussing civil rights and civil liberties, people often use the terms interchangeably, even though there are differences between the two. While both are defined in the constitution and share similarities, there are subtle distinctions that set them apart. This article aims to clarify the two concepts and highlight their differences.

Civil liberties are older than civil rights and were included in the Bill of Rights when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. These rights are enforceable, meaning citizens can appeal in court if they feel their rights have been infringed upon. Some examples of civil liberties include freedom of speech, right to privacy, right to a fair trial, right to vote, right to marry, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches of one’s home.

The 14th amendment to the constitution, added after the civil war, included the Equal Protection Clause, which prohibited the government from discriminating against citizens. This clause also made the Bill of Rights applicable not only at the federal level but also to state governments and other government agencies.

Civil rights were introduced in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. These rights protect citizens against acts of discrimination in private matters such as housing, education, or employment. Civil rights also specify grounds that cannot be used to prefer certain people over others, such as gender, race, religion, and more. Civil rights have received mixed responses from the public, with some questioning the government’s authority to regulate their right to choose candidates based on personal preferences.

Though civil liberties and civil rights may appear identical, there are differences between the two. These distinctions become clear when considering which right is being affected and whose right is being impacted. For example, if an individual is not receiving a promotion, they cannot invoke civil liberties, as promotion is not guaranteed as a right. However, if a person is being overlooked for promotion due to their gender, they can appeal under civil rights for their right to be promoted.

Key Takeaways

  • Civil liberties predate civil rights, which were incorporated with the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
  • Civil liberties were included in the Bill of Rights after citizens protested and demanded the incorporation of their basic rights into the constitution.
  • While civil liberties mainly involve individual rights such as freedom of speech and religion, civil rights protect against discrimination by individuals or groups other than the government.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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