The Civil Rights Act is treated as the most important U.S. law on civil rights since the Reconstruction period (1865-77). Title II prohibits segregation or discrimination in places of public accommodation involved in interstate commerce.
In 1964, Congress ratified public accommodation laws as Title II of the Civil Rights Act. This provides:
- The right to full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations without discrimination on account of race, color, religion, or national origin
- Immunity to a person who attempts without any force to deny another person’s admittance in places of public accommodation
Under Title II of the Civil Rights Act, all persons are entitled to absolute and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations in any place of public accommodation. This right extends to any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests and to any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain engaged in selling food for consumption. This right also extends to any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment.
The enjoyment of these public accommodations is subject to certain limitations, including:
- If the operations of a public establishment is part of commerce and it serves interstate travelers or it sells a major share of food, gasoline or other products to them.
- If the public establishment presents films, performances, athletic teams, exhibitions, or other sources of entertainment as part of commerce.
- If the discrimination or segregation by a public establishment is supported by a state action under color of any law, statute, ordinance, or regulation carried by any custom or usage.
- If the public establishment is not open to public and it provides the facilities to its customers or patrons.
The Attorney General has power to bring necessary civil actions to enforce these laws.