New Report Tracks Threats to Affirmative Action at the State Level

Media 06.23,05

Washington, DC – Thursday, June 23 marks the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic decisions in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. To mark this anniversary, Americans for a Fair Chance, a project of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, released its annual report, “Anti-Affirmative Action Threats in the States: 1997-2004.”

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter has not stopped opponents of equal opportunity from working deliberately to undermine affirmative action,” said Wade Henderson, General Counsel of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) and Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest and largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition. “In fact, the strongest threat to affirmative action is in the form of a potential ballot initiative in Michigan introduced by Ward Connerly, a persistent opponent of affirmative action.”

The report identifies eight states in which anti-affirmative action activity in the form of legislation and resolutions, ballot initiative campaigns and state executive orders has been most persistent: Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York. At the forefront of this activity is Ward Connerly’s so-called “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative,” which he is trying to qualify for the 2006 state ballot. Connerly is the California-based businessman and former University of California regent who successfully led similar anti-affirmative ballot initiatives in California in 1996 and Washington state in 1998. The report also catalogs gains and setbacks at the state level over the past seven years.

The Grutter decision upheld the use of race as one of many factors in higher education admissions. The continued threats to equal opportunity in the U.S., detailed in the report, fly in the face of that decision.

“Affirmative action is, and continues to be, one means by which qualified individuals are guaranteed equal access to higher education, employment, and contracting,” continued Henderson. “It is important to not only monitor threats to these programs, but to continue to educate and inform the public about the continuing need for affirmative action.”