Ward Connerly Defeated on Two Fronts

Media 03.26,04

“The Colorado Senate today and a Michigan circuit court yesterday dealt Ward Connerly’s efforts to roll back affirmative action a sharp setback,” said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition.

“Defeat of the Connerly-inspired measure assures that affirmative action plans currently in place at Colorado’s public universities remain, protecting people of color who continue to be under-represented at state higher education institutions,” stated Bill Vandenberg, of the Colorado Progressive Coalition and spokesperson for Colorado Unity, a pro-affirmative action network. “The Colorado Senate’s vote defends affirmative action in public education, employment, and contracting and takes a stand against divisive attacks on civil rights in our state. This was a vote for equity and opportunity.”

While yesterday’s decision by a Michigan state court is a setback to Connerly’s efforts, his forces in the state are vowing to continue his misguided petition drive. To counter their efforts, the civil rights community must continue its firm opposition to Connerly’s campaign to roll back affirmative action in the state.

“Connerly’s divisive efforts have been rejected. The Ingham County Circuit Court in Michigan defended the state constitution, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger to uphold affirmative action,” said Henderson.

In yesterday’s decision, the court reasoned that the petition language did not make it clear enough that the proposal would dramatically alter the main civil rights clause of the Michigan Constitution. The court stated that “the finding of the Michigan State Board of Canvassers flies in the face of the underlying purpose of the popular amendment process … which is to assure all voters will be fully informed of the effect an initiated proposal will have upon the existing constitutional provisions.”

Sponsored by Colorado state Sen. Ed Jones, (R), and state Rep. Shawn Mitchell, (R), the so-called Colorado Civil Rights Act (SB 194) aimed to ban affirmative action programs in public hiring, contracting, and admissions to public colleges and universities. Although called a “Civil Rights Act,” civil rights advocacy groups, including Colorado Unity, a diverse statewide coalition of civil rights and social justice organizations, maintain that SB 194 does not protect Colorado citizens’ civil rights.