Missouri court rejects and revises proposed affirmative-action ban

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June 30, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri: On Friday, June 26, 2009, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan ruled against a ballot initiative that would have called for a constitutional amendment outlawing affirmative action measures. Callahan sided with the American Civil Liberties Union's argument presented in a December lawsuit against the proposal, drawn up by the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative. Callahan said that the summary of the proposal submitted by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was "inadequate and unfair," and that the ballot proposal itself should have been rejected.[1]

If the ban on affirmative action goes on the ballot and is approved, it would bar the state from granting preferential treatment to individuals based on race, ethnicity or sex in public employment, education or contracting.

Carnahan's summary said the measure would "ban affirmative action programs designed to eliminate discrimination against, and improve opportunities for, women and minorities in public contracting, employment and education." Callahan pointed to a second section as cause for his concern, which says the measure would also "allow preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to meet federal program funds eligibility standards as well as preferential treatment for bona fide qualifications based on sex." The judge said the language suggested the amendment would simply revise modes of preferential treatment, rather than abolishing them.[2]

Later on Monday, however, Callahan himself rewrote the ballot summary to fit this more limited interpretation, essentially removing the second point Carnahan made. As a result, canvassers will soon begin gathering signatures from registered voters. Tim Asher, executive director of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, said afterwards, "Obviously, we're thrilled about it. It gives us something we can go out and give the voters of Missouri, so they know what they're voting on."[3] If it qualifies for the ballot, the measure will go on the November 2010 statewide ballot.

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