ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Latest Effort To Eradicate Equal Opportunity In Missouri

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU national, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Anthony E. Rothert, ACLU of Eastern Missouri, (314) 652-3111; tony@aclu-em.org

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Latest Effort To Eradicate Equal Opportunity In Missouri

New Version Of Proposed Anti-Affirmative Action Ballot Initiative Still Unconstitutional

JEFFERSON CITY, MO - The
American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the
ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri today filed a lawsuit challenging
the latest attempt by a political operative to rewrite Missouri's state
constitution to ban equal opportunity programs in the state.

Filed in the circuit court of Cole
County, the lawsuit charges that the anti-affirmative action ballot
initiative – the third of its kind proposed by Timothy Asher and his
Missouri Civil Rights Initiative – should not be circulated for
signatures because it violates the Missouri Constitution by seeking to
trick and defraud Missouri voters in attempting to ban an array of
equal opportunity programs.

"After failing twice to deceive the
voters of our state into rolling back important programs that ensure
that women and racial and ethnic minorities are given an equal chance
to compete, the backers of this latest effort apparently hope that the
third time is the charm," said Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff
attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "But Missouri voters
haven't been fooled by this deception before and they won't be fooled
now."

Missouri was one of three states –
along with Arizona and Oklahoma – in which efforts to qualify
anti-equal opportunity initiatives for the ballot during the 2008
election cycle failed. Asher spearheaded that effort in Missouri as
well, when he worked as part of a largely unsuccessful national
campaign targeting five states led by millionaire Californian Ward
Connerly.

Asher submitted a second proposed
initiative at the end of 2008, and the ACLU responded by filing a
lawsuit charging that it was unconstitutional and fraudulent. In June,
a Missouri circuit court judge struck down the initiative, ruling it
violated Missouri law because it did not comply with statutory
requirements.

The ACLU lawsuit filed today charges
that the current proposal would confuse voters by forcing them to vote
on multiple issues in a single proposition in violation of the Missouri
Constitution, and that the ballot summary certified by the secretary of
state contains language that is unfair and misleading, in violation of
Missouri law. Additionally, the lawsuit charges that Missouri's auditor
failed to adequately assess the proposed initiative's fiscal impact.

The proposed changes to the Missouri
Constitution would also decimate many essential equal opportunity
programs, eroding the participation of women and racial and ethnic
minorities in public education, state contracting and employment.

"What Asher and his cronies don't
want people to understand is that all of the initiatives he has
proposed may undercut a whole host of equal opportunity programs,
including data collection requirements that help the government
identify racial, ethnic and gender discrimination," said Arlene
Zarembka, an ACLU cooperating attorney in St. Louis. "It is essential
that this ongoing deception and misinformation continue to be exposed
and defeated."

Attorneys in the case include
Anthony E. Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, Stephen Douglas
Bonney of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, Zarembka, Shuford of
the ACLU Racial Justice Program and Araceli Martinez-Olguin and Lenora
Lapidus of the ACLU Women's Rights Project.

A copy of today's lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa/40740lgl20090814.html

Additional information about equal opportunity is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa

Additional information about the ACLU of Eastern Missouri is available online at: www.aclu-em.org

Additional information about the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri is available at: www.aclukswmo.org

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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