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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against CA Anti-Affirmative Action Measure

A class action lawsuit was filed last week alleges that the civil rights of Black, Latina/o, and Native American applicants to California schools are violated due to an amendment, Proposition 209, to the state constitution. The Proposition 209 amendment to the California constitution passed in 1996 and prohibits affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting. The so-called California Civil Rights Initiative effectively ended affirmative action policies in the state and gutted sex discrimination law.

The suit, which claims that Proposition 209 is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution was filed by Michigan-based group By Any Means Necessary. Lead counsel Shanta Driver told the Associated Press, "Thirteen years of a ban on affirmative action in the state of California has left, in particular UCLA and Berkeley, with just pitiably low numbers of black and Latino students...You can't have a white majority create a situation in which the only people who are barred from going to their regents and saying, 'Adjust the admissions system so more of our sons and daughters can get in' are black, Latino and Native American."

California Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote a letter (see PDF) to the California state Supreme Court last year arguing that the amendment is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection Clause. The letter also states that "ironically, by effectively disadvantaging racial minorities and women in the political process, without an evident compelling governmental reason for doing so, [the amendment] seems to accomplish the very evil it purported to eliminate...racial and gender discrimination." Brown wrote the letter at the request of the California state Supreme Court, which was then considering a challenge to a law that gives an advantage to women and minority-owned businesses in bidding for contracts in San Francisco.

Ward Connerly, a California businessman, used the passage of Proposition 209 to build his nationwide campaign against affirmative action. Connerly's efforts have led to affirmative action bans not only in California, but also in Michigan, Washington, and Nebraska. A similar affirmative action ban supported by Connerly was defeated in Colorado in 2008. Also in 2008, Connerly's anti-affirmative action campaigns in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arizona failed to gather enough signatures for measures to qualify for the ballot. Connerly testified earlier this month in support of a bill in the Utah state Senate that would ban affirmative action in the state.

Media Resources: Associated Press 2/17/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/27/09, 2/17/10

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