The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation. Generally, places of public accommodation are businesses or buildings that are open or offer services to the general public. These facilities can be publicly or privately owned and operated. Federal, state and local governments own and operate facilities such as courthouses, jails, hospitals, parks, and other places. They also provide services, programs, or activities including transportation systems and welfare programs. Privately-owned businesses and facilities offer certain goods or services to the public. Food, lodging, gasoline, and entertainment also come under the definition of places of public accommodation.
Section 2000a of Title 42, Chapter 21 of the U.S. Code (42 USC 21) prohibits discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation. Under this provision, all persons are entitled to full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation without any discrimination or segregation based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Many private establishments serving the public are considered places of public accommodation. Such private places include:
- inns, hotels, motels, or other organizations that provide accommodation to temporary visitors
- restaurants, cafeterias, lunchrooms, lunch counters, soda fountains, or other facilities providing food for consumption
- motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, sports arenas, stadiums or other places of exhibition or entertainment