As most of you are aware, the United States has had a tumultuous history with civil rights and crazy laws. We’re not talking about laws that were silly or seemed unnecessary. No. We’re talking about laws that placed those who were innocent in harm’s way. The violation of our civil rights and the horrible laws associated with them targeted people because of their skin color, their national origin, and even their sexual orientation. Many lives were lost due to the consequences of these unjust laws, and a distrust of the government remains even to our present day.
As you will see in this list, dedicated civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are on the front lines, fighting to make sure we avoid laws that are hateful, discriminatory, or downright unfair. While they have made significant progress, more work is needed. As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” so take a trip through history with us as we visit 25 Crazy Laws You Wouldn’t Believe America Would Still Have If It Weren’t For Civil Rights (and let’s not repeat history).
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Marriage to Non or Ineligible-Citizens
We hear of some people marrying others so that they can obtain citizenship. However, did you know at one point in US history there was a law that made women choose between marrying the person they loved or losing their citizenship?
The law stated if a woman married an “ineligible or non-citizen,” she would be stripped of her own citizenship. The premise was that women took the nationality of their husbands. Since the husbands were not US citizens, the women who married them lost their US citizenship.
This law, the Cable Act, was finally changed in 1931 to allow women to at least be able to marry men from select countries and retain their citizenship; the Act was put to a complete end in 1936.
Women Not Allowed to Vote
It’s no secret that women did not have the same rights as men at the founding of the United States. Women’s rights movements didn’t get off the ground fully on a national level until 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention. It wasn’t until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August of 1920 (over 70 years later) that women were granted the right to vote.
Indian Removal Act of 1830
Some laws cause damage that can’t be “repealed” or fixed. In 1830, the Jackson administration was given the right to “negotiate” with Native American tribes, forcing them to relocate from lands they had held long before the establishment of the US. This law opened the door for the Trail of Tears, a mass-relocation of Native Americans that resulted in an appalling number of deaths.
In 1924, Native Americans were granted US citizenship, and in 1968, the Indian Civil Rights Act granted Native American tribes many of the same rights that are stated in the Bill of Rights.
Japanese-American Internment Camps
Just because someone is granted citizenship, it doesn’t mean that they are free from the possibility of unjust treatment. In 1942, President Roosevelt signed off on Executive Order 9066, authorizing the relocation of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans (including those born in the US) to internment camps. The Supreme Court signed off on it in 1944. It wasn’t until 1988 that official apologies were made and reparations were issued.
Dred Scott Decision: People as Property
Having a group of people classified as “lesser” and as “property” has been part of US history since before the beginning. In 1857, Dred Scott sued for his freedom and was denied. It was established that slaves were not citizens and had no right to sue. It wasn’t until the passing of the 14th amendment in 1868 that African Americans were granted full citizenship.