The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Will Matthews, (212) 549-2582 or 2666;

Political Operative Abandons Latest Attempt to Decimate Equal Opportunity in Missouri

Proposed Ballot Initiative Withdrawn in Face of ACLU Lawsuit


with an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, a political operative
who has failed twice before to place an anti-affirmative action
initiative on the Missouri ballot has abandoned his latest attempt to
rewrite the state constitution to ban equal opportunity programs.

Timothy Asher, head of the Missouri
Civil Rights Initiative, which has led two unsuccessful efforts in the
past two years to place before state voters an unconstitutional ballot
initiative that would have rolled back an array of affirmative action
programs, officially requested last week to withdraw his third attempt
to qualify his initiative for the ballot. The ACLU, the ACLU of Eastern
Missouri and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri filed a lawsuit in
August charging that Asher's latest proposed initiative sought to trick
and defraud Missouri voters.

"This is a huge victory that will
protect programs intended to ensure that women and racial and ethnic
minorities are given an equal opportunity to compete," said Reginald T.
Shuford, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program.
"Essential programs, including data collection requirements that help
the government identify racial, ethnic and gender discrimination, will
now remain in place."

All of Asher's proposed initiatives
would have changed the Missouri Constitution by effectively decimating
many equal opportunity programs, leading to the erosion of the
participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in public
education, state contracting and employment.

"The state of Missouri has a
constitutional obligation to ensure that no one is denied opportunity
because of unfair and unjust discrimination," said Stephen Douglas
Bonney, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.
"America is the land of equal opportunity and these proposed
initiatives flew in the face of some of our most cherished ideals."

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. A similar measure made it on the ballot in
Colorado but was rejected by voters. Asher spearheaded the effort in
Missouri, working as part of a largely unsuccessful national campaign
targeting several 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
2009, a Missouri circuit court judge struck down the initiative, ruling
that it didn't comply with state law.

After Asher submitted his third
proposed ballot initiative in July 2009, the ACLU filed a lawsuit
challenging it, charging that the initiative would confuse voters by
unconstitutionally forcing them to vote on multiple issues in a single
proposition and that the ballot summary certified by the secretary of
state contained language that was unfair and misleading, in violation
of Missouri law. The ACLU lawsuit also charged that Missouri's auditor
failed to adequately assess the proposed initiative's fiscal impact.

Other attorneys on the case include
Anthony E. Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and ACLU cooperating
attorney Arlene Zarembka of St. Louis.

A copy of Asher's letter seeking
withdrawal of his proposed initiative, and Secretary of State Robin
Carnahan's approval, is available online at:

A copy of the ACLU's most recent lawsuit is available online at:

Additional information about equal opportunity is available online at:

Additional information about the ACLU of Eastern Missouri is available online at:

Additional information about the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri is available at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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