This is the caption: "A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO BAN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS THAT GIVE PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO GROUPS OR INDIVIDUALS BASED ON THEIR RACE, GENDER, COLOR, ETHNICITY OR NATIONAL ORIGIN FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION OR CONTRACTING PURPOSES."
A natural inference from this language is that programs, policies, and practices NOT labeled "affirmative action" would not be covered by the amendment. This is an enormous loophole. There are many powerful people in Michigan who would be glad to argue that the public voted for the proposition they saw on the ballot, not for the text they never read.
During these last weeks before the vote, the MCRI could help to close this loophole by its summaries of the amendment in ads and public statements: What the MCRI targets is race- or sex-based discrimination or preference, whether it occurs in affirmative action programs or elsewhere. What it protects is the civil right not to be treated unequally based on one's race or sex, no matter what you call the program that practices such treatment. Wording such as this shows that the ballot language falls short of the text of the amendment and the intentions of its sponsors. And it helps to develop the kind of public understanding and support of the amendment that its passage and especially its enforcement would require.
All together now, fellow citizens, repeat after us:
issue is discrimination or preference, based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or
Whether labeled affirmative action or not, any practice that discriminates against people, or gives them preference, based on their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin, in public employment, public education, or public contracting, is outlawed by this amendment.
Whether labeled affirmative action or not, any practice that does not discriminate against people, or give them preference, based on their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin, in public employment, public education, or public contracting, is unaffected by this amendment.
Second Suggestion. Another feature of the ballot language provides a valuable opportunity. The last clause reads: "The proposed amendment would prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.)"
A natural inference from the information in parentheses is that the amendment's bar on discrimination is practically redundant. Indeed, Michigan's constitution and laws are full of bans on discrimination. The problem is that the laws commonly feature an exception that eviscerates the prohibition, as in this clause of the Michigan Civil Rights Act, re employment: "Sec 210. A person subject to this article may adopt and carry out a plan to eliminate present effects of past discriminatory practices or assure equal opportunity with respect to religion, race, color, national origin, or sex if the plan is filed with the commission under rules of the commission and the commission approves the plan." Emphasis added. [Are these plans accessible to the public? I haven't found them on the internet.]
Therein lies the opportunity. The MCRI amendment not only stands for the principle that whites and males have the same right as non-whites and females not to be discriminated against on the basis of race and sex . It can also stand for another principle, equally fundamental: that the rules that keep or kill these rights should be publicly made by legislatures, not privately by commissioners. It is no accident that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has been from the first the enemy of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. If adopted and faithfully executed, the amendment would radically reduce the Commission's legislative power. Thus, victory on election day would mean a tougher battle still to come. If the public understands that the issues are not only equality under civil rights laws, but also who makes those laws, the MCRI has a better chance to win both on and after Nov. 7.
(Read here the Ballot Language proposed by MCRI)