ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Asher's Effort To Eradicate Equal Opportunity
Proposed Ballot Initiative Is Unconstitutional And Fraudulent
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JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the latest attempt by a political operative to rewrite Missouri’s state Constitution and ban equal opportunity programs in the state.
The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cole County, charges that an anti-affirmative action ballot initiative proposed by Tim 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.
The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office announced last week that it had approved Asher’s proposed initiative for circulation.
“This is just the latest attempt to deceive the voters of our state into rolling back important programs that ensure that women and racial and ethnic minorities have fair notice of opportunities and are given an equal chance to compete for them,” said Anthony E. Rothert, staff attorney with the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “Missouri voters weren’t fooled by this deception before, and they won’t be fooled by this latest effort to perpetrate fraud against them.”
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 last election cycle failed. Asher spearheaded that effort in Missouri as well, when he worked as part of a largely unsuccessful national campaign led by millionaire Californian Ward Connerly that targeted a total of five states. Connerly’s initiative was defeated by voters in Colorado, and its passage in Nebraska is facing legal challenges that center on whether Connerly’s campaign broke the law in order to qualify it for the ballot.
The ACLU lawsuit argues that the initiative confuses voters by forcing them to vote on multiple issues in a single proposition in violation of the Missouri Constitution, and that the initiative’s language attempts to intentionally mislead voters into believing it upholds equal opportunity programs while its true purpose is to end them.
The ACLU charges that the proposed changes to the Missouri Constitution would decimate many essential equal opportunity programs, eroding the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in public education, state contracting and employment.
“This is an attempt at fraud in its lowest form,” said Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “What Asher and his cronies don’t want people to know is that initiatives such as this one have been used to challenge a whole host of equal opportunity programs including data collection requirements that help the government identify racial, ethnic and gender discrimination.”
Attorneys in the case include Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, cooperating attorney Arlene Zarembka of St. Louis, Shuford and I. India Geronimo of the ACLU Racial Justice Program and Araceli Martinez-Olguin and Lenora Lapidus of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
A copy of the ACLU lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa/38151lgl20081219.html
Additional information about equal opportunity is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa
Additional information about the ACLU is available online at: www.aclu.org
Additional information about the ACLU of Eastern Missouri is available online at: www.aclu-em.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.