One of the most significant pieces of legislation has been the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Some observers say the Supreme Court under John Roberts is chipping away at it
Other contend recent rulings uphold the core intent of the law: to prevent discrimination
A key question: Did the act exchange one group of victims for another?
It took the assassination of a president, a ferocious legislative battle and a bloodied army of protesters filling the streets of America to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.
A half-century later, defenders of the landmark law say it faces a new threat: Five votes on the U.S. Supreme Court and an indifferent public.
As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, it’s tempting to believe the battle over the law is over. But people are still clashing over it – what it means, how long should it last and whether it discriminates against whites.
Now some supporters of the law fear the battle has shifted to new terrain. They warn that the conservative majority on the court, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., will do to the law what it did last year to the Voting Rights Act – gut the parts that make it work while leaving its façade still standing.
“I think Roberts is very smart and takes the long view,” says Kent Greenfield, a columnist and professor at Boston College Law School. “The Roberts court won’t say this law cannot stand.”