Civil Rights Leaders Urge Supreme Court to Uphold One of the Nation’s Oldest Anti-Discrimination Statutes

By Shani Saxon Oct 02, 2019

Civil rights leaders came together to advocate for a civil rights case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term. The coalition’s goal, according to a statement emailed to Colorlines, is to convince the Court to uphold Section 1981, one of the cornerstones of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and ethnicity when making and enforcing contracts.” 

Advocates representing the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the NAACP, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, held a press call to detail the case pending before the Supreme Court, Comcast v. National Association of African American-Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc., and what it means for the future of all racial discrimination laws. 

“This is the most important civil rights case that will be heard by the Supreme Court this term,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in the emailed statement. “An adverse ruling by the Court stands to impose a burdensome pleading standard in Section 1981 cases that would shut the courthouse door on victims of discrimination all across the country.” 

Section 1981, added Clarke, includes independent contractors and gig economy workers.

The case before the SCOTUS accuses Comcast of violating Section 1981 by denying Black-owned Entertainment Studios the chance to have their networks carried on the cable systems. According to NAACP President, Derrick Johnson, the implications go far beyond a single dispute. “This matter is bigger than one lawsuit. …By rolling back Section 1981, millions of victims of discrimination will have the rules stacked against them, barring any real opportunity for them to prove their claims.”

Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, says opportunity is at the heart of this case: “Congress enacted Section 1981 with the purpose of ending racial discrimination in contracting. The Court’s ruling will have major consequences for the future of civil rights, and we urge it to maintain the full force of our federal civil rights laws.”