Trump Takes a Final Swipe at the Civil Rights Act

The Department of Justice has proposed a change to the interpretation of disparate impact in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many anti-discrimination laws that followed.

2 minute read

January 7, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Trump Administration

Erin Alexis Randolph / Shutterstock

"The Trump administration is pushing in its final days to undo decades-long protections against discrimination, a last-ditch effort to accomplish a longtime goal of conservative legal activists," report Laura Meckler and Devlin Barrett.

More specifically:

The Justice Department is seeking to change interpretation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by recipients of federal funding. Under these rules, actions are considered discriminatory if they have a discriminatory effect, what’s known as a “disparate impact,” on protected groups. Under the new version, only intentional discrimination would be prohibited.

The Trump administration has worked throughout its time in office to undo the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which relied on the concept of disparate impact when implemented by the Obama administration in 2015. The proposed change doesn't directly targeted the AFFH like previous actions by the Trump administration.

"The regulation, if finalized, would directly affect the rules for grants awarded by the Justice Department, but because the agency is involved in legal matters that stretch across the government, it could have a broader effect in setting the tone for legal policies and practices in other agencies," according to Meckler and Barrett.

The Trump administration waited until the final moments of its time in office to change the interpretation of the Civil Rights Act without the typical period for public comment that precedes substantive changes like this. The rule change was pursued by the office of former Attorney General Bill Bar, who has resigned his position at the Department of Justice in December 2020.

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