Good news, civil rights advocates: Late Friday, a Missouri circuit court judge struck down a proposed ballot initiative aimed at amending the state constitution to outlaw equal opportunity programs in the state. This ACLU victory is something to celebrate amidst the Supreme Court's recent disappointing decision in Ricci v. DeStefano.
The proposed initiative, spearheaded by Timothy Asher of the so-called Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI), represents a second failed attempt to eliminate valuable programs that open doors for people of color and women in Missouri. In 2008, and again this year, the MoCRI has attempted to mislead voters by giving them the impression that they would be voting to uphold equal opportunity programs when they would in fact be voting to destroy them. Both times, the ACLU went to court to ensure that, should the initiative appear on the ballot, voters would know the truth about what they were voting on.
Sadly, Asher and his allies — including Ward Connerly of the American "Civil Rights" Institute — relentlessly refuse to be transparent and insist on co-opting civil rights terminology. In 2008, Connerly et al. targeted Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma for anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives, deceptively calling their campaign a "Super Tuesday for Civil Rights."
Fortunately, state after state has rejected Connerly's underhanded assault on affirmative action. Out of the five states he targeted in 2008, Connerly lost in four (all but Nebraska). In Missouri, after being exposed through litigation and on-the-ground mobilization, Asher withdrew his own petition, stating that it did not likely have enough valid signatures to make it on the ballot. In Oklahoma, the Secretary of State identified the petition submitted by the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative as having an unprecedented number of serious irregularities, including numerous duplicate names and addresses and instances of petitioners signing their own signature sheets multiple times.
In spite of their repeated losses and public knowledge of their dishonest practices, Asher and Connerly have continued their attempts to strip away equal opportunity programs benefitting all Americans. Indeed, the fight in Missouri is far from over: on June 29, Asher filed yet another petition for the 2010 ballot. The ACLU will not allow Asher to deceive the people of Missouri or the people of any other state. Expanding opportunity is a full-time job, but its importance cannot be overstated.
To learn more about the ACLU's affirmative action efforts, visit: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa/index.html.