WASHINGTON, DC – Today Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Congressman Glenn Ivey (D-MD), along with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), introduced the Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act, legislation to protect individuals from racial discrimination and foster economic inclusion. The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act restores and strengthens Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, addressing the erosion of Section 1981's original guarantees by adopting a motivation test, allowing for disparate impact claims, and expanding protection to a broader array of economic activity.

“The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act is a crucial step toward ending racial discrimination and forging a democratic society that acts in service to the needs of our people,” said Congressman Raskin. “De Tocqueville taught us that a democracy is either always growing or shrinking, and for decades we’ve witnessed attempts by an increasingly authoritarian Supreme Court to shrink the scope of the Civil Rights Act and circumscribe the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s time to get our democracy back on the growth track and provide firm protections against discriminatory practices in economic life, ensuring that people of color live free from economic discrimination. I’m grateful to Congressman Ivey, Senator Blumenthal and Senator Booker for their support of this critical legislation.”

“The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act will help restore the unrealized promise of an economy in which all Americans have full, equal opportunity, free from racial discrimination,” said Senator Blumenthal. “In the wake of the Civil War, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to guarantee that all Americans had the same rights to enter into contracts – but decades of bad court decisions have blocked Black Americans and other racial minorities from relying on this law to hold companies accountable for violations of their civil rights.”

“America should be strengthening laws that protect the civil rights of Black Americans and people of color and support economic justice. Yet, the Supreme Court has chipped away at Section 1981, a pillar in the fight against racial discrimination and expanding economic opportunities,” Senator Wyden said. “Congress must right this wrong and do more to address the serious economic inequities that persist in America and make sure that every American has equal opportunity.”

“Over 155 years ago, Congress enacted Section 1981 to guarantee equal treatment for Black Americans and other communities of color in our economy. However, the Supreme Court’s decades-long pattern of systemically striking down its critical protections has left the law’s promise unfulfilled today,” said Senator Booker. “The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act would be an important step toward restoring these protections and addressing the systemic racial discrimination in our nation’s economy. We must ensure that all Americans are afforded the same opportunities to thrive.”

“I am proud to support the reintroduction of the Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act.  Economic empowerment and opportunity for historically underserved communities is vital to generational wealth. Economic inclusion is a civil right.  I commend the leadership of Rep. Raskin, Senators Blumenthal, Wyden, Booker and others to bring this measure the extra yard towards our ultimate goal of equity, fairness and justice in business and all walks of life,” said Congressman Glenn Ivey.  

“The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act will provide a necessary safeguard for Black people and other people of color to vindicate their rights in federal court when they have been subjected to racial discrimination,” said Zha’Mari Hurley, Associate Policy Counsel, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is important that Congress prioritizes legislation that seeks to dismantle racial discrimination in this country. This bill will accomplish that by creating a pathway to secure justice for America's most vulnerable communities when their civil rights and liberties are violated.”

“For far too long, the burden of proving the intent behind racial discrimination in a contract action has been placed on the person or company being discriminated against,” said Ron Busby, President and CEO of US Black Chambers, Inc. “The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act of 2023 is a step in the right direction towards the promise of equal protection that the constitution guarantees and will help to ensure that all racial discrimination in the making and enforcing of private and public contracts be prohibited. Black-owned businesses have seen far too many cases where violations of the terms in a contract or contract enforcement have resulted in creating or perpetuating racial discrimination. The “reasonable person standard” is applied in cases where a defendant owes a duty to others and may have breached that duty. This important legislation would establish that any proof of conduct that a reasonable person would find racially hostile would establish a violation and is consistent with other applications of the use of the “reasonable person standard.” 

For the past 150 years, there have been attempts to weaken the intent of Section 1981 for all Americans to achieve the economic freedom that they deserve,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “I am proud to endorse this bill that promises to restore Section 1981 to its full strength and help Black people achieve economic parity and opportunity without fear of discrimination and further injustices.”

“The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act would be the most important legislative advance for civil rights in over a quarter century,” said Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law and Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. “It would restore the law to what it was before unfortunate Supreme Court decisions that very restrictively interpreted landmark civil rights statutes.  The new Act would be a vital protection against discrimination and achieving economic justice.”

Congress passed Section 1981 to secure the civil rights of Black citizens in the wake of the Civil War. Enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, Section 1981 guarantees all persons the “same right” to make and enforce contracts “as [are] enjoyed by white citizens.” Under Section 1981, all racial discrimination in the making and enforcing of private and public contracts should be prohibited. Over time, however, the Supreme Court chipped away at the promises of Section 1981.

The Economic Inclusion Civil Rights Act has garnered endorsements from prominent organizations dedicated to advancing civil rights and combating racial discrimination. The endorsing organizations and academics include: Color of Change; the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; National Urban League; U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.; and Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from Berkeley Law School.

Senate cosponsors of the bill include: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

House cosponsors of the bill include: Reps. Jamaal Bowman (NY-17), Al Green (TX-09), Jonathan L. Jackson (IL-01), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).

A copy of the bill text can be found here.