Civil rights are the legally protected rights of all people to be treated equally regardless of race, sex, age, disability or national origin. Civil rights can also encompass religion and sexual orientation. This means freedom from discrimination in situations that include education, employment and housing.
The Civil Rights Movement was once about establishing equality for African-Americans in all parts of society. In subsequent decades, civil rights evolved to provide equality for everyone.
Civil rights are guaranteed and regulated by laws that originate through federal legislation or through federal court decisions such as ones handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar civil rights laws can also be passed at the state level and even passed by municipalities such as cities and counties.
Civil rights are not the same thing as civil liberties. Civil rights are the rights of individuals to be free from unequal treatment based on factors such as age, race or ethnicity. Civil liberties are more basic rights and freedoms that include the right to free speech, right to privacy, right to marry, right to a fair trial and the right to vote.
Civil liberties are guaranteed at the federal level. However, the level of protection varies among states. For example, some states may terminate LGBT employees based on their sexual orientation, as of 2015. Victims of civil rights violations can get help through a civil rights attorney.