Oklahoma Gears Up For Fight Over Affirmative Action

Oklahoma is gearing up for a fight over a 2012 ballot amendment that, if passed, would ban affirmative action in the state.Barbara Hoberock of The Tulsa World reports that State Question 759 will likely appear on the ballot in November 2012, and if approved, will add an amendment to the Oklahoma constitution that bans affirmative action in public employment, contracting and education, with a few exceptions.

And a number of groups – both inside and outside of the state – are gearing up to fight over the amendment next year.

Tamya Cox, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Oklahoma, says that they will oppose the measure, as part of a coalition of groups called Keep the Door Open: Vote No on SQ 759. “We strongly believe in equal opportunity programs in Oklahoma.”

Groups like the Oklahoma Federation of Democratic Women, Change Oklahoma, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Coalition For the American Dream are also a part of the coalition.

“We believe this attempt to ban affirmative action is actually against the interest of the state and those that want equality not only for minorities but also for women,” Muneer Awad, executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma, told the Tulsa World. “We think this is about equal opportunity and getting rid of affirmative action is a step in the wrong direction.”

One Sacramento group, American Civil Rights Institute, will support the measure. The group opposes affirmative action, and has been pushing for similar measures in other states. In Michigan, a court case over an affirmative action ban in college admissions was led by Jennifer Gratz of the American Civil Rights Institute. Ward Connerly, the founder of the ACRI, said they “haven’t decided exactly what we will do” in Oklahoma, but “we will be involved.”

State sen. Ralph Shortey (R), one of the measure’s sponsors, said that the measure shows that Oklahoma is “becoming more color-blind.”

“One of the big reasons we need it is Oklahoma is perceived nationwide, and it is not warranted, as a racially biased state,” he said. “We don’t need that.”

A similar initiative failed in the state in 2008.