Very few people who are well versed in politics have not heard the stereotype that Republicans are the party of racism and discrimination. But what exactly are Republican views on civil rights? Are they as outrageous as the media makes them out to be? The involvement of today’s two major parties in the civil rights movements is largely speculated on, and few know the hard facts. It has been stated over and over again that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and also that the parties switched platforms after this point.
Republicans did play a role in the civil rights movement of the 60s. While the entire party was not active in the movement, parts of the party were integral to the movement’s outcome. Today, while some ideals may be easy to twist, Republicans argue that the party’s platforms regarding any group of people are not founded in hate or on the basis of denying groups of people their civil rights. Policies that seem discriminatory are oftentimes based in tradition or on other logic that is not widely advertised.
Republicans During the Civil Rights Movement
Much like politics today, Republicans and Democrats had a wide range of beliefs within their parties during the civil rights movement. Where any given Democrat or Republican stood on civil rights depended more on whether they were conservative or liberal Republicans or Democrats than it did which party they were a member of.
Moderate and liberal Republicans, as well as moderate and liberal Democrats, supported the civil rights movement. Much to the same effect, conservative Democrats and conservative Republicans alike opposed the civil rights movement. This is where much of the confusion as to which party affiliation today equates to support of this movement comes in. For the most part today, we associate Republicans with conservatism and Democrats with liberalism. However, there are more liberal Republicans and more conservative Democrats today just as there were in the 60s.
Republican Views on LGBTQ Rights
Perhaps one of the civil rights issues under the most scrutiny nowadays is gay rights. The Republican Party platform has very defined stances on gay rights, but these stances seem to have swayed some in the last few years. The Republican Party historically stands behind the traditional definition of marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. This opposition to the gay right to marriage does not come from a hatred of homosexuals or a desire to deny them basic civil rights, as many people try to color it, but from a belief that the institution of marriage was set up as such by our founding fathers, and has been defined this way throughout history. Republicans believe that changing the definition of such a union after centuries of following the precedent of our founders compromises the sanctity of the institution. The opposition to gay rights also stems from a belief that, in terms of raising a family, having a male and female authority figure is a healthier and more balanced way for a child to grow up.
However, this is not to say that Republicans oppose gay rights as a whole. The Republican Party believes in the right of individual states to decide for or against the recognition of marriages that do not fit the traditional and previously-recognized definition. The Republican Party believes in a smaller federal government, which places fewer regulations on the people. They also believe in the state’s rights to make their own laws, based on the beliefs of their citizens. In relation to gay marriage, the Republican Party believes that state’s rights should extend not only to the right to legalize or not legalize gay marriages, but to recognize, or not recognize, gay marriages from other jurisdictions, and to decide on tax and adoption rights for gay couples.
Republican Views on Affirmative Action
When we think about civil rights, race issues come to the forefront of many peoples’ minds. Affirmative Action is a continuation of the race movement that the population at large thinks of as the civil rights movement. The movement first became known as Affirmative Action in 1961, when President Kennedy issued an Executive Order that directed government contractors to take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” This same order established the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, which is now known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Initially, Affirmative Action policies focused on improving educational and employment opportunities for African Americans. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed an Executive Order requiring government contractors to increase their numbers of minority employee by enacting Affirmative Action policies. He expanded the policy to include women, and signed he Civil Rights Act into law, stating “And this is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom, but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity, but human ability; not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and equality as a result.” This led to colleges and universities adopting similar systems over the following years. This caused enrollment rates for African American and Latino students to steadily increase. While there are still opportunity gaps that exist in the educational system, they have been steadily shrinking. However, the use of race as a factor in college admissions has been, and continues to be, a highly contested issue. Traditionally, the Democratic Party has strongly supported Affirmative Action, stating “Our commitment to civil rights is ironclad…We support affirmative action to redress discrimination and to achieve the diversity from which all Americans benefit.”
Republican Views on Women’s Rights
The Republican Party supports women’s advancement in the military. However, they also support their exemption from ground combat units, and support the implementation of the recommendations of the Kassebaum Commission, which unanimously recommended that co-ed basic training be ended. Whether this is in support of or goes against women’s rights is a controversial issue in and of itself.
- Republican Party on Civil Rights – OnTheIssues
- History: Democrats & Republicans On Civil Rights & Equality – Addicting Info
- Affirmative Action Overview – National Conference of State Legislatures
- Republican Party on Civil Rights – OnTheIssues
- Republican Views On Affirmative Action
- Democratic Views On Affirmative Action
- Republican Party Beliefs
- Democratic Views on Gay Rights
- Differences Between Democrats and Republicans
- History of the Republican Party
- Democratic Views on Gay Marriage
- Republican Views on Gay Rights
- The Republican Party Platform
- How Do Political Views Change With Age?