Women’s Groups Speak out Against Michigan 2006 Affirmative Action Measure
Ward Connerly main financial backer in anti-affirmative action effort
Women’s groups in late August launched a two-year campaign to defeat a planned 2006 ballot initiative that would ban affirmative action in government hiring and college admissions in Michigan. The group’s leaders said women — not just ethnic and racial minorities — would be hurt by the measure.
“It’s not broken,” Roni Weaver, president of Michigan Business and Professional Women, said of Michigan’s current law. “It’s fair, it works. Leave it alone.”
The groups — including the National Association of Women Business Owners, American Association of University Women and Michigan Women’s Commission — said the initiative would undermine societal advancements and make the state’s work force less diverse. They plan to host a summit next March to focus on the importance of affirmative action for women.
The groups held a news conference in Kalamazoo and made their announcement on Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the day in 1929 the 19th Amendment was officially certified. The amendment gave women the right to vote.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which is gathering petition signatures to put the anti-affirmative action measure on the ballot, decided in June to scuttle its efforts to get on the November ballot and instead focus on 2006.
The initiative would prevent public agencies, universities or colleges from granting preferential treatment based on race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.
It’s opposed by several groups including Citizens for a United Michigan, which consists of business and community leaders who support affirmative action and have fought to keep the issue off this fall’s ballot.
The petition effort comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last June ruled that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race to create a diverse population.
The court struck down the university’s undergraduate policy for ensuring a mix of students as too formulaic, and university officials revised the policy last fall to include a more comprehensive review of each application.
Ward Connerly, champion of similar anti-affirmative action initiatives in California and Washington, has extensively helped the Michigan campaign.
The Detroit News reported last month that a group headed by Connerly, the Sacramento, Calif.,-based American Civil Rights Coalition, contributed 95 percent of the $140,000 raised by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee.
Campaign finance reports filed this month by the committee listed no Michigan donors to the ballot drive.
“It shows this was not an effort that was driven by a need that Michiganders felt,” said Kary Moss, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and opposes the initiative. “There is a small group from outside the state who have brought their agenda to Michigan.”
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will report a list of several hundred Michigan donors later, said Chetly Zarko of Ann Arbor, treasurer of the fund-raising committee.
“It’s totally untrue that we don’t have support within the state,” Zarko said. “We have 1,400 to 1,700 volunteers, and a large number of donors who haven’t been reported yet.”
Citizens for a United Michigan has raised $314,610, campaign finance records show. The leading contributor is Detroit Renaissance, a nonprofit group of city business leaders, which donated $200,000.
The Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan contributed $50,000. Giving $5,000 each were the University of Michigan Alumni; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and the Detroit Federation of Teachers.
— Associated Press
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