A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege under the U.S. Constitution, a state constitution, a federal or state statute or a local ordinance. A party whose civil rights are violated generally may seek relief through a court action. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press and assembly; the right to vote; the right to privacy; and the right to equal protection under the law. Courts play a crucial role in determining the scope and enforcement of civil rights laws. A single Supreme Court ruling can change the scope of a civil right throughout the country.
Fundamental human rights are those generally understood to be common to all people in all countries, such as the right to life; the prohibition of slavery, torture and arbitrary arrest; equality before the law; and the freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and participation in government.
GetLegal’s Civil and Human Rights Law Center provides information about individual civil and human rights.
The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression without government interference.
Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of a person are denied or interfered with because of his or her membership in a particular group or class. The U.S. Constitution and the constitution of each state generally provide for equal protection under the law. In addition, state and federal statutes and many local ordinances prevent discrimination based on race, sex, religion, age, physical limitation, national origin, sexual orientation and other characteristics.
The right to privacy has evolved to protect the freedom of individuals to choose whether to perform certain acts or subject themselves to certain experiences. Courts have looked to privacy rights on matters relating to abortion, contraception and private sexual conduct between consenting adults.
American Indian law governs the relationship between American Indians and state and federal governments.
Last update: Sept. 25, 2008