Civil Rights in the Age of Obama

Civil Rights Practice Group and The Heritage Foundation

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Obama and HolderSome of President Obama’s admirers and detractors have suggested that his election as President and the Democratic majorities in Congress may usher in a new civil rights era. Whether that is so, what policies this new era might usher in, and whether those policies are wise, are all subject to a healthy and exciting debate. Congress has already passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and is considering several more significant bills that concern race and gender–the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  More will likely be proposed this session. What effect should policymakers give to the President’s campaign promise to move “beyond race?”  What does the election of Barack Obama and the strong showing of Hillary Clinton mean for race- and gender-conscious measures to ensure equality are not necessary or justified? Do the new majorities in Congress suggest that the American people want such measures to be extended and expanded to new classes of people?  What will the Supreme Court have to say about all this?  Several potentially landmark cases are awaiting decision by the Supreme Court.  The holdings of these cases, and how the political branches respond to them, are yet another hot topic for debate. This event took place on May 13, 2009.


  • Mr. Roger Clegg, President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity
  • Prof. Gail Heriot, University of San Diego School of Law and Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
  • Ms. Jocelyn Samuels, Vice President for Education and Employment, National Women's Law Center
  • Prof. Theodore M. Shaw, Columbia Law School and Former Director-Counsel and President, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • Moderator: Mr. Todd Gaziano, Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation and Comissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights