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From the Great State of Michigan

Josh Spaulding,
Washington Legislative Office
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November 4, 2006

Hello from the great state of Michigan! I’ve been here for two weeks now, working to defeat an anti-affirmative action proposal on the ballot. Although I wish there was no anti-affirmative proposal to defeat in the first place, it’s terrific to be back in my home state working hard to protect civil liberties.

I’ve been working with the ACLU of Michigan and One United Michigan, a coalition comprised of over 200 organizations and businesses. One United Michigan is truly the most appropriate name for this coalition – from the ACLU to the labor unions to the Michigan Catholic Conference, groups who aren’t often at the same table have joined forces to protect women and minorities.

This proposal was brought to Michigan by Ward Connerly of California. He came to Michigan with his millions of dollars, and is using them to fool people into voting to end programs that work toward creating a level-playing field for women and minorities. I say he’s trying to fool Michiganders because he’s titled the proposal the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Who wants to vote against civil rights? Here’s what the proposal says:

“A proposal to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin for public employment, education, or contracting purposes.”

Ward Connerly and his gang also fooled thousands of voters earlier this year when he was collecting signatures to get anti-affirmative action language on the ballot. His volunteers deceptively told them that signing the petition would expand equal rights to everyone when in fact it will wipe out tons of programs for women and minorities.

So our job on the ground is to educate voters that a yes vote will have devastating effects on Michigan and a no vote will keep progress moving forward. Similar amendments were passed in California in 1996 and Washington in 1998 so we know the effects this proposal would have on the Great Lakes State. Programs that encourage young girls to pursue math and science courses and careers will be in danger because it targets one gender. For the same reason, programs to re-train displaced men from the auto industry into nursing careers will also be banned because of this proposal.

Minority representation in our great universities will dwindle. Since the same proposal passed in California, African-American enrollment at UCLA is dropped for the 2006 incoming freshmen class to the lowest level since 1973 (UCLA is located in the county with the second largest African-American population in the United States).

Another effect this amendment will have is on women’s health programs. The state of Michigan will no longer be able to invest in programs for breast and cervical cancer screenings because it targets one gender.

By the end of this weekend we hope to have contacted every ACLU member in the state to remind them to vote NO on Proposal 2 on November 7th. This weekend and through Election Day thousands of people will be pounding the pavement in neighborhoods across Michigan to remind people to vote NO on Proposal 2 to continue moving our great state forward.

I may no longer live here but thanks to the values I learned here, I know that defeating this measure is vitally important to the future of Michigan. With the state of our economy we need to include more people into our workforce and our schools and we need to vote no on Proposal 2 on November 7th!

UPDATE: In a comment to this post, Steve Sutton raised some questions about the comparison to California’s civil rights initiative.

Steve — and others — I may have received some incorrect information. I just reviewed what happened in California, and though there have been lawsuits challenging programs for breast and cervical cancer screening and domestic violence programs, they were dismissed because the courts found the person suing lacked standing.

Also, California has a law under section 11139 of the CA Government Code exempting lawful programs that serve the disabled, the aged, minorities and women from challenges under state anti-discrimination laws. Unless that law itself were to be found unconstitutional, it insulates those programs from termination.

Michigan does not have a similiar law, so if the MCRI passes, there is a good chance we will see lawsuits challenging state domestic violence programs and women-specific health programs – especially if they take the lessons learned from CA.

Sorry for any confusion!