The man behind a controversial 1996 state ballot measure that banned race and gender preferences in state hiring and admissions said Tuesday night that he thinks it will withstand a new legal challenge.
Ward Connerly said he thinks a lawsuit filed by the activist group By Any Means Necessary in U.S. District Court in Oakland Tuesday, which seeks to overturn part of Proposition 209, misinterprets rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in affirmative action cases in recent years.
Proposition 209 bans public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in public education, public employment and public contracting.
George B. Washington, the lead attorney for By Any Means Necessary, which was founded in 1995 to fight the University of California Board of Regents' ban on affirmative action, said the suit seeks to bar the state from enforcing Prop 209 as it applies to admissions to the UC system.
However, Washington said the suit doesn't seek to overturn other parts of Proposition 209.
Connerly, who is the founder and chairman of the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Institute and formerly served on the Board of Regents, said similar measures in the states of Washington, Michigan and Nebraska were all challenged "but in every instance the courts found that there were no grounds for the challenges."
Washington, a Detroit-based labor and civil rights attorney, said the percentage of black and Latino students admitted to UC has dropped dramatically since Prop 209 was enacted.
"This is an outrage and a social explosion waiting to happen," Washington said at a news conference outside federal court in Oakland.
Proposition 209 was upheld by federal appellate courts, but Washington said "the whole ballgame has changed" because of a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan's law school and the dramatic decline of black and Latino students at the UC system.
But Connerly said he thinks Washington is "misinterpreting" the 2003 case, called Grutter v. Bollinger, and is ignoring a subsequent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action.