Missouri Judge Strikes Down Attempted Ban On Equal Opportunity Programs

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
June 27, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU Lawsuit Halts Fraudulent Anti-Affirmative Action Ballot Initiative

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO – A Missouri circuit court judge late Friday struck down a proposed ballot initiative aimed at amending the state’s constitution to outlaw equal opportunity programs in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last December charging that an anti-affirmative action ballot initiative proposed by Timothy Asher and the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative should not be circulated for signatures because it violates the Missouri Constitution by seeking to trick and defraud the state’s voters in attempting to ban an array of equal opportunity programs.

“The ruling strikes a crucial blow against a fraudulent and deceptive attempt to roll back important state programs ensuring that women and racial and ethnic minorities have fair notice of opportunities and are given an equal chance to compete,” said Reginald T. Shuford, Senior Staff Counsel for the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “It is essential that equal opportunity programs, including data collection requirements that help the government identify racial, ethnic and gender discrimination, be preserved.”

The ACLU lawsuit argued that the proposed initiative should never have been certified by the secretary of state in the first place because it was misleading and insufficient. The initiative would have amended or repealed an existing constitutional provision that has absolutely nothing to do with affirmative action.

“The language certified by the secretary of state did not make clear what its impact would be on the Missouri Constitution as required by law,” said Anthony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “The law makes clear that voters must be given notice of what they are being asked to vote on. The initiative in this case failed to do that and was likely to cause significant confusion on Election Day.”

The ACLU also argued that the proposed initiative was deceptive and unfair in violation of Missouri law because it attempted to mislead voters into believing it sought to uphold equal opportunity programs while its true purpose was to end them. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan agreed, ruling on Friday that the proposed initiative violated Missouri law because it did not comply with statutory requirements.

Attorneys in the case include Shuford and I. India Geronimo of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, Araceli Martinez-Olguin of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, Stephen Douglas Bonney of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, and cooperating attorney Arlene Zarembka of St. Louis.

A copy of the ACLU lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa/38151lgl20081219.html

Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program can be found online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice

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