WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of congressmen, saying they want to "lock the barn door before the horse gets out," today threw their support behind a major bill to overturn a Supreme Court ruling restricting civil rights laws.
Members of the House and Senate said the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1985 would overturn last year's high court decision allowing the government to cut off money to specific programs that discriminate but not to an entire institution.
"We intend to do all we can to restore the full force and effect of the laws prohibiting bias because of race, sex, age or handicap," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), key sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
"The clear message of the bill . . . is that federal aid must not be used in any way, shape or form to subsidize discrimination."
Sponsors introduced the bill in the House today and plan to send it to the Senate next week. It would broaden civil rights protections to millions of women, minority members, the handicapped and the elderly.
Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who was a key sponsor of the measure last year when he was a member of the House, said the new legislation will put "teeth" back into civil rights law.
He said the Supreme Court ruling could do a great deal of damage, since the Reagan Administration has signaled that it intends to use it to seek restrictions in civil rights cases.