Reagan and Domestic Policy--Civil Rights...: A Very Short Introduction
Women While running for president, Reagan pledged that if given the chance, he would appoint a woman to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1981, he did just that with his nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor, who was confirmed by the United States Senate. Ronald Reagan opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because he felt it did not give women more rights than they already had.
Minorities Reagan did not support federal initiatives to provide blacks with civil rights. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. His opposition was based on his view that certain provisions of both Acts violated the US Constitution and in the case of the 1964 Act, intruded upon the civil rights of business and property owners.
Reagan did not consider himself a racist, and dismissed any attacks aimed at him relating to racism as attacks on his personal character and integrity. His opposition to certain federal government civil rights acts were not because he was racist, but because he believed in states’ rights.
Reagan gave a States' Rights speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964, when running for president in 1980 and said (while campaigning in Georgia) that Confederate President Jefferson Davis was "a hero of mine.” However, Reagan was offended that some accused him of racism. In 1980 Reagan said the Voting Rights Act was "humiliating to the South," although he later supported extending the Act. He opposed Fair Housing legislation in California (the Rumford Fair Housing Act), but in 1988 signed a law expanding the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Reagan was unsuccessful in trying to veto another civil rights bill in March of the same year. Reagan supported South Africa in spite of apartheid, but yielded to pressure from Congress. At first Reagan opposed the Martin Luther King holiday, and signed it only after an overwhelming veto-proof majority (338 to 90 in the House of Representatives and 78 to 22 in the Senate) voted in favor of it. Congress overrode Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988. Reagan said the Restoration Act would impose too many regulations on churches, the private sector and state and local governments.