ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Latest Effort To Eradicate Equal Opportunity In Missouri
New Version Of Proposed Anti-Affirmative Action Ballot Initiative Still Unconstitutional
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JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri today filed a lawsuit challenging the latest attempt by a political operative to rewrite Missouri’s state constitution to ban equal opportunity programs in the state.
Filed in the circuit court of Cole County, the lawsuit charges that the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative – the third of its kind proposed by Timothy Asher and his Missouri Civil Rights Initiative – should not be circulated for signatures because it violates the Missouri Constitution by seeking to trick and defraud Missouri voters in attempting to ban an array of equal opportunity programs.
“After failing twice to deceive the voters of the state into rolling back important programs that ensure that women and racial and ethnic minorities are given an equal chance to compete, the backers of this latest effort apparently hope that the third time is the charm,” said Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “But Missouri voters haven’t been fooled by this deception before and they won’t be fooled now.”
Missouri was one of three states – along with Arizona and Oklahoma – in which efforts to qualify anti-equal opportunity initiatives for the ballot during the 2008 election cycle failed. Asher spearheaded that effort in Missouri as well, when he worked as part of a largely unsuccessful national campaign targeting five states led by millionaire Californian Ward Connerly.
Asher submitted a second proposed initiative at the end of 2008, and the ACLU responded by filing a lawsuit charging that it was unconstitutional and fraudulent. In June, a Missouri circuit court judge struck down the initiative, ruling it violated Missouri law because it did not comply with statutory requirements.
The ACLU lawsuit filed today charges that the current proposal would confuse voters by forcing them to vote on multiple issues in a single proposition in violation of the Missouri Constitution, and that the ballot summary certified by the secretary of state contains language that is unfair and misleading, in violation of Missouri law. Additionally, the lawsuit charges that Missouri’s auditor failed to adequately assess the proposed initiative’s fiscal impact.
The proposed changes to the Missouri Constitution would also decimate many essential equal opportunity programs, eroding the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in public education, state contracting and employment.
“What Asher and his cronies don’t want people to understand is that all of the initiatives he has proposed may undercut a whole host of equal opportunity programs, including data collection requirements that help the government identify racial, ethnic and gender discrimination,” said Arlene Zarembka, an ACLU cooperating attorney in St. Louis. “It is essential that this ongoing deception and misinformation continue to be exposed and defeated.”
Attorneys in the case include Anthony E. Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, Stephen Douglas Bonney of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, Zarembka, Shuford of the ACLU Racial Justice Program and Araceli Martinez-Olguin and Lenora Lapidus of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
A copy of today’s lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa/40740lgl20090814.html
Additional information about equal opportunity is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa
Additional information about the ACLU of Eastern Missouri is available online at: www.aclu-em.org
Additional information about the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri is available at: www.aclukswmo.org
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
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The ACLU Racial Justice Program aims to preserve and extend constitutionally guaranteed rights to people who have historically been denied their rights on the basis of race.