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Celebrating 50 Years Of Progress, Civil Rights Summit Begins In Austin

Charles Bogel
U.S. National Archive
LBJ Presidential Library

This week the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin is celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There will be discussions about the progress of civil rights issues through the course of the week and those discussions begin with gay rights.

From the original 1964 Civil Rights Act signing, President Lyndon Baines Johnson said:

“My fellow Americans, I’m about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I want to talk to you about what that law means to every American.” -- LBJ

It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and by facilities that served the general public.  

University of Texas at Austin’s Dean of LBJ School of Public Affairs Robert Hutchings said this week is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of 1964, as well as those still facing the nation in 2014.

“A lot of things fall under the rubric of civil rights, including immigration, the growing discussion of growing income inequality, etcetera," Hutchings said.

The summit began with a panel discussion on whether gay rights should be considered a civil right. Plano attorney Mark Phariss and his partner Vic Holmes are in the midst of a civil rights lawsuit challenging Texas’ laws banning same-sex marriage.

"The right to marry that we're seeking is in a large measure the same right that the 14th Amendment was granting to freed slaves," Phariss said.

Phariss said many of the challenges faced by gay men and women of today are the same issues addressed in 1964.

"In 29 states it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against people on the basis of the sexual orientation in employment," Phariss said.

President Barack Obama will be speaking along with former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.