WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

Transgender Fight in North Carolina May Hinge On 1964 Law

The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed after years of marches, beatings, sit-ins and lynchings, part of the convulsive change across the country that gave African-Americans the same rights that white citizens had to drink at water fountains, get jobs, buy homes, stay at hotels and vote. A creature of its time, the law prohibits discrimination because of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

The word sex made it into the bill at the last minute, almost accidentally. It was inserted only after the drafting and congressional hearings, when the bill went to the House floor. Representative Howard W. Smith, a Virginia Democrat who opposed the bill, introduced an amendment adding sex discrimination, prompting laughter from his colleagues, who mockingly offered other suggested additions.

Despite speculation that Mr. Smith meant to weaken support for the bill — he said his concern for women was sincere — his amendment passed, and so did the act. The rights of transgender people never came up.

Transgender Fight in North Carolina May Hinge On 1964 Law (online edition headline)

Mulling 1964 Act’s 2016 reach (print edition headline)