(1) Overview and Introduction
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

Success!  On Nov. 7, 2006 Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved MCRI (Proposition 2) by 58% to 42%!

1.1 Timeline of MCRI

1.1 -- Timeline of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

          The Michigan Civil Right Initiative (MCRI) was announced two weeks after the muddled Supreme Court decisions endorsing "forced diversity" as a compelling government interest at the University of Michigan.  Below are the key dates from the beginning of the MCRI to the ultimate voter approval of MCRI.

June 23, 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court handed down twin decisions regarding the University of Michigan’s use of racial quotas and preferences in student admissions.

          In one case, Gratz v. Bollinger, the high court ruled that Michigan's undergraduate school’s mechanistic formula which awarded blacks and other selected minorities a specific number of "points" on their college applications was impermissible. However, in the other case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the court ruled that Michigan's law school's use of more "subtle" use of racial preferences was permissible.

          Note: This pair of Supreme Court rulings did not require Michigan to use race as a factor in student admissions; these rulings only state that U. Michigan can do so if they choose. Predictably, the diversiphiles at U. Michigan have, in fact, chosen to continue to use more "subtle" racial quotas in their admissions process.

July 8, 2003: Formal announcement of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The announcement featured some of the leaders of the modern anti-preferences movement, including Ward Connerly, Thomas E. Wood, and Jennifer Gratz (the named plaintiff in one of the Supreme Court cases).

July 2003 thru January 2006: For the next three years, the MCRI campaign struggled to accomplish a number extremely challenging tasks on the road to getting the initiative on the ballot. They succeeded in gathering the required number of voters signatures in order to certify the initiative only to be repeatedly challenged by quota supporters that the petitions misled the Michiganders that signed them. Then the MCRI had to fight a series of very ugly and dishonest battles waged by extremist groups such as By Any Means Necessary (BAMN or, as we affectionately refer to them, the BAMNuts), as well as a mudslinging misinformation campaign waged by another pro-quota group calling itself One United Michigan.

          Surveys and opinion polls conducted during this period showed that Michiganders overwhelmingly favor ending the use of racial preferences and quotas. Republican Party officials in the state rapidly distanced themselves from the MCRI campaign for fear of losing minority votes. The Democrats and the labor unions, of course, have come out in strong opposition to the MCRI, dishonestly portraying it as a "step backwards" for civil rights.

Jan. 6, 2006: After being forced by a court order, today the Michigan State Elections Board, headed by Chris Thomas, released the proposed ballot language which is to appear on the Nov. 2, 2006 ballot.

          Now the State Board of Canvassers, who had previously refused to certify the ballot until also forced by a court order, is required to meet and approve the ballot language by Jan. 20, 2006.

          The ballot language, presumably in final form and notwithstanding any successful challenges from the pro-quota groups, reads as follows:


The proposed amendment would:

** Ban public institutions from using 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. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.

** 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.)

Should this proposal be adopted?

Jan. 20, 2006: The Michigan State Board of Canvassers met and approved the ballot language handed down by the state elections commissioner on by a vote of 3 to 0. The extremist group BAMN promised to go to court to try to remove the key phrase "preferential treatment" from the ballot.

Jan. 2006 to Nov. 2006: Stay tuned!  There is lots of time between now and Nov. 2, 2006 for mischief by opponents of equal treatment who think racial discrimination is OK as long as it is directed against whites and other non-preferred groups.  You can count on lots of vitriolic and misleading rhetoric from the quota pushers, if not a lawsuit or two prior to the Nov. 2, 2006 Michigan elections!

Nov. 7, 2006:  ELECTION DAY!  SUCCESS!   Michanders went the polls and voted overwhelmingly to approve the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 2).  The final vote tally:  58% of Michiganders voted YES and only 42% voted no.

1.2 July 8, 2003 Announcement of MCRI

1.2 -- MCRI Formally Announced (July 8, 2003)

          On July 8, 2003 Ward Connerly announced the start of a Michigan Civil Rights Initiative campaign to allow the voters of Michigan to vote directly to ban the state's use of race or ethnicity in state employment, college admissions, state contracting or any other state-supported function. 1.1
UP: 1.1 -- MCRI Timeline

1.3 -- True Equality
True Equality
          Appropriately, Connerly's announcement came within two weeks of the U.S. Supreme Court's fractured June 23 decision supporting the use of "subtle" racial quotas in the University of Michigan's student admission decisions.

          Joining Connerly for the announcement were Tom Wood, coauthor of California's Proposition 209 which successfully outlawed that state's use of race and ethnicity.  Two of the named plaintiffs in the Michigan cases, Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter, also joined Connerly, as did Valery Pech, plaintiff in the Adarand Constructors case, as well as University of Michigan Professor Carl Cohen known as a vocal critic of politically correct racial orthodoxy.

Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
P.O. Box 1398
Southgate, Michigan 48195
You may also wishto contact:
American Civil Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 189113
Sacramento, CA 95818
(734) 730-4842
Diane Schacterle ds@acri.org
Phone: (916 ) 444-2278

Visit the OFFICIAL web site of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative at:
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          All of these inviduals have become respected civil rights leaders in the fight for colorblind justice.  All of them have fought, and continue to fight, for equal treatment under the law without regard to race, gender or ethnicity.

          Immediately below is the text of Connerly's July 8, 2003 speech at the University of Michigan where he announced the launch of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.  Also be sure to see the remarks of Tom Wood, co-author of California's Proposition 209, following Connerly's speech at Ann Arbor.

          Also be sure to visit the official web site of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative at www.mcri2004.org (opens new browser window).

[Ward Connerly, July 8, 2003] --

          Four days ago, we - the American people - celebrated our 227th year of independence as a nation.

          Whatever our station in life - rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal; whatever our sexual orientation, our ethnic background, our gender or our religion - the Fourth of July has very special meaning to all of us.

          We rise early and enjoy a breakfast of pancakes and sausage at our neighborhood parks. We stand on the sidewalks and watch the parades as local high school bands play the majestic and patriotic songs of John Phillip Sousa.
See Also:
Down:  Tom Wood's Michigan Speech
Tom Wood's

          We gather with family and friends to play volleyball, swim and play a game of softball, and to barbeque hot dogs and hamburgers, and to guzzle beer.

          We "ooh" and "aah" at the spectacular displays of fireworks.

          These festive things we do to celebrate our freedom and our liberty. But, our celebration does not begin and end with food and drink and other forms of merriment.

          We pledge our allegiance to the American flag and to the ideals represented by that flag - ideals like liberty and justice for all and the aspiration of becoming "one nation, indivisible."

          We read our local newspaper and, invariably, the Declaration of Independence is printed in its entirety on the editorial page. We are reminded that as a people "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

          There are those who say that the Declaration of Independence has no credibility; that it was written by white males at a time when Americans of African descent were considered 3/5ths of a person.

          To them, the Constitution is equally flawed for the same reason.

          But, for most of us, the journey down the avenue of freedom and equality began on July 4, 1776 with that proclamation that "all men are created equal." It continued on July 9, 1868 when we enshrined as a constitutional principle the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law."

          Our travels accelerated nearly a century later when the Congress enacted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Therein, we breathed life into that declaration of our ideals and the constitutional principle of equal treatment.

          We established as law the "civil right" of every person in this dear country of ours to be treated as an equal "without regard to race, color or national origin." Every government agency in every village and hamlet of America thereby acquired the duty and the obligation to make no distinction between its citizens on the basis of the color of their skin or the origin of their ancestors when those citizens interacted with their government.

          And, so it is well established that America has evolved a culture of equality established over 227 years ago and nurtured along through much pain, turbulence and, even death.

          On June 23rd of this year, the highest Court in the land, with a stroke of the pen, essentially said, there is nothing sacred about our Declaration of Independence.

          About the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, the Court declared: "The Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the law school's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."

          With that ruling, the Supreme Court confronts the American people with some rather basic questions: Is the principle of equality so devalued that we are willing to brush it away without a moment's hesitation and on the whim of five people? Do we not believe in the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment? Are we not obligated to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

          Do we have so little confidence in the American spirit and in yet unborn Americans of African and Mexican descent that we consign them to another generation of presumed inadequacy? Is it fair to say to a black parent: your child to be born eight years from now will still need a preference when he or she applies to college in the year 2028?

          I cannot describe to you the anger and humiliation that fills me as a "black" man to be viewed with such misplaced pity and misguided patronization.

          Immediately following the proclamation about our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there is an equally significant passage: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

          Those words summon us to consider our options in responding to this unjust decision.

          I happened to notice yesterday that a prominent law professor proclaimed that the Supreme Court has ushered in a "new civil rights movement," one that acknowledges a "new national consensus in favor of affirmative action."

          I suggest to that professor and others who subscribe to this perspective that you leave the walls of ivy of your sheltered academic setting and you have a cup of coffee at a few truck stops, go to a soccer game, go to a few factories, and I believe you will conclude as I have that the American people are quite content with the old civil-rights movement which embraced equal treatment under the law, not preferences based on race.

          To deny Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter access to UM in the name of "diversity" is a distinction without difference [from] denying James Meredith access to "Ole Miss" because of his race. The presumed nobleness of the cause does not wash away the fact that discrimination has occurred and an injustice has been perpetrated.  Justice O'Connor and her colleagues in the majority are fully aware of this fact.  Why else would they openly use the term "race preferences" and suggest that the Court might, maybe, perhaps, revisit this issue in 300 months [25 years, as stated in O'Connor's majority opinion]?

          "Gee, thanks, your honors!"

          To the justices of the Court, I say, respectfully, that we will not wait 25 years for the principle of equal treatment to be restored.

          To those among us who call for patience on our part, who counsel that we should not "stir the pot," have you not learned the lessons of the American founding and the American civil-rights movement? Our nation was given birth and nurtured over the years in a cauldron of boiling discontent with things as they were and a desire to right them.

          No matter how much we respect and rely on our universities of this nation to provide leadership, guidance, and to serve our communities, there is no compelling reason in the hearts and minds of most Americans that they should be above the law. To the contrary, they ought to be the moral conscience of this nation in the defense of our fundamental values of equal treatment, liberty and justice. We are not content to be governed by admissions officers instead of the Constitution.

          In their newfound love for state's rights - by allowing each university to discriminate on the basis of race in order to create a "critical mass" based on race - I wonder how Justice O'Connor and her colleagues in the majority would rule if the University of Michigan concluded that "diversity" isn't all that they previously claimed?

          What if the university concluded that having black students on campus created too much tension and distracted students from learning? Would it be acceptable, then, to turn black and Hispanic students away or subject them to a higher academic standard?

          I am persuaded to believe that the outcome of such a hypothetical case would be far different from the ruling in Gratz and Grutter. I am equally persuaded that those who are now so enamored with the concept of "diversity" would take a quick refresher course on the true meaning of civil rights.

          This is not 1963.  There is no governor blocking the school house door.  There is no Sheriff Bull Connor with snarling dogs straining to attack black people.  This is not about simple access to college. None of those circumstances exist, thanks to the Almighty and to an American spirit that embraces the principle of "equal treatment for every person."

          And so today, I am pleased to announce that we, the people hereby assembled - including Tom Wood, coauthor of Proposition 209, Valery Pech, plaintiff in the Adarand case, as well as Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter - will begin a campaign to place on the November 2004 Ballot what will be commonly known as the "Michigan Civil Rights Act." This initiative will be patterned after the 1964 Civil Rights Act and California's Proposition 209 to prohibit discrimination and preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting.

          In the weeks ahead, we will organize a local committee to serve as sponsor of the initiative. We will recruit a local volunteer and paid staff. We will develop a fundraising campaign. We will develop a cadre of supporters who can carry our message of equal treatment for all and preferences for none throughout the state of Michigan.

          We expect that the signature-gathering process can begin by no later than September 1 and be concluded by early next year.

          Our crusade will not end with the state of Michigan. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be exploring the feasibility of undertaking initiatives in other states, cities, and counties across the land.

          We ask all Americans to join us in this endeavor.

-- Ward Connerly, founder and chairman
of the American Civil Rights Institute,
July 8, 2003

          Here is the text of Tom Wood's July 8, 2003 presentation at the University of Michigan:

[Remarks by Tom Wood to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative kick off rally U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor July 8, 2003] --

          I am happy to be here today to help kick off the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

          I was the co-author and official co-proponent, with Glynn Custred, of the California Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Prop. 209, which California voters adopted 54-46% on November 5, 1996.

          I was very pleased when Ward Connerly, the very effective chair of Prop. 209 for the last thirteen months of our campaign, responded quickly to the Supreme Court decisions in the U Michigan litigation with the decision to jump start a civil rights initiative here. I strongly support this effort, and that is why I accepted Ward's invitation to come here to speak to you today. Up
Ward Connerly's Speech
Down:  1.3 True Equality

          I will focus my brief remarks on some of the things that you and others in Michigan can expect as you look down the road, based on the California experience.

          First, opponents will say that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is an anti-affirmative action measure-indeed, they are already saying it. This claim is false. The words "affirmative action" are not in the text of the initiative at all, and that feature of it was deliberate, not an oversight. In fact, Prop. 209 has come under some criticism since its passage from some who are otherwise sympathetic with its goals on the grounds that only PREFERENTIAL forms of affirmative action are prohibited by the measure.

          Since its adoption, many attempts have been made in California to maintain and promote racial diversity without the use of preferences. Significantly, even Sandra Day O'Connor in the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Grutter mentions the fact that California has been a kind of laboratory for experimenting with non-preferential ways of promoting racial diversity since voters struck down racial preferences there, and the Court directs universities in other states to learn from California's experience. I do not personally support all of the race-neutral measures that California has adopted since the passage of 209, but I do support some of them. In any case, it is important to note that only one kind of affirmative action-racial preferences-is prohibited by 209 and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

          The second thing one can predict is that Michiganders will be told that they can't change what the U.S. Supreme Court has already laid down in the U Michigan decisions as the law of the land. This claim, too, is false. The U.S. Supreme Court said in Grutter and Gratz that within certain limits and for a finite time, the use of race as a factor in admissions to promote racially diverse learning experiences on campus is permissible under the federal constitution. But nothing in either opinion says that this is required. One can therefore think of the Supreme Court decisions as offering an invitation to Michiganders to use racial preferences in admissions at their elite institutions of public higher education in a limited way and for a limited time if they want to. But Michiganders are perfectly free to DECLINE that invitation, just as Californians did on November 5, 1996.

          In general, Michiganders who are opposed to racial preferences can take heart from the California experience.

          First, we know from our experience that initiatives to prohibit racial preferences are popular. Hard work is required, and of course there are no guarantees. But a properly organized and reasonably well-financed campaign for the MCRI should win.

          We also know from the California experience that the MCRI will be popular AFTER it is adopted. After the Supreme Court decisions in the U Michigan cases came down, some political writers in California have reported that some opponents of 209 have suggested relitigating 209 or even mounting an initiative effort to reverse it. I do not know if news about that has reached you here, but if it has, I advise you to dismiss it completely. It is just a lot of hot air. If anything, 209 is more popular now than it was on election day in November 1996, when it won 54-46%--in no small part because its opponents' dire predictions about what would happen if it did pass failed to materialize.

          Californians are happy to have a law prohibiting preferences in their state. Michiganders should roll up their sleeves and work for the passage of MCRI here. I hope and trust that Michiganders will do that, and I have told Ward that I will do everything I can to help him and those in Michigan who step forward to lead this effort.

          What you do here is of immense importance, not only to Michigan, but to the entire nation.

-- Tom Wood, co-author of the California Civil Rights Initiative,
also known as Prop. 209
July 8, 2003
Ann Arbor, Michigan

1.3 Aim for True Equality (Carl Cohen)

1.3 -- Aim for True Equality by Ending Preferences

by Carl Cohen, Professor of Philosophy
University of Michigan

This article first appeared in the Detroit Free Press Sunday, July 17, 2005.  It is reprinted here in its entirety by permission of the author.

          If the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is adopted by the people of Michigan in 2006, our state, and our state universities, will no longer be permitted to discriminate in any way by race or national origin.

          Will the MCRI end affirmative action? That depends entirely on what one means by affirmative action. If one means giving special preference to some racial or ethnic groups, as the University of Michigan now does, then of course affirmative action in that sense will be ended. If one means taking positive steps to ensure that all persons of all races are treated equally, then the MCRI will give strong support to affirmative action.

          For example: Have examinations and other qualifications for employment or admission been distorted by racial preference for whites? Yes, they have. Affirmative action is essential to cleanse such instruments of all ethnic bias.  MCRI supports such affirmative action categorically.

Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
P.O. Box 1398
Southgate, Michigan 48195
(734) 730-4842
With the adoption of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, all forms of racial discrimination, including discrimination in housing and lending, would be explicitly prohibited by the Michigan Constitution. That is wholesome affirmative action.
          "Affirmative action" has many meanings and many forms.  Its ambiguity is the reason courts and legislators now avoid the phrase.  But it originally meant, and should still mean, the steps we take to eliminate racial unfairness.  Executive Order No. 10925 (issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and still in effect) obliges every contractor with the federal government "to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."  
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
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That is affirmative action of which we can be proud, and that is exactly the force of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

          Three years after that executive order, one of the greatest pieces of legislation in our national history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was adopted, recognizing the need for affirmative action to eliminate all racial preferences. "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin ... be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." That's Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act. Equal treatment, not preferences. That's affirmative action as it ought to be.

          Does the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative support that? Of course! That is precisely what the MCRI says: no discrimination by the state, no preferences -- no one to get more, or less, because of the color of her skin or the national origin of her ancestors.

          The term "affirmative action" was later kidnapped by advocates of preference. Now, as we know, it commonly means exactly what affirmative action was originally intended to eliminate. The phrase was turned on its head. And the result is that very many people are understandably confused. Most Michiganders want to be fair, want to be inclusive and welcoming to all, want to be truly nondiscriminatory -- and we do want affirmative action in this original and honorable sense. But most Michiganders also despise preference by race.

          The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative simply says that in our state the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution will be taken seriously. In our state, the great Civil Rights Act of 1964 is to mean just what it says. No ambiguity, no confusion. Here it is:

          "The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

          Is that the thrust of the Civil Rights Act, or of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative? It is the sense of both, of course!

          The words are those of the MCRI; they deliberately echo, almost exactly, the words of the Civil Rights Act. To vote against the MCRI is, in effect, to vote against the Civil Rights Act.

          Why would anyone do that? Why oppose such a clear statement of the principle of equal treatment? The reason can only be that opponents of the MCRI wish to retain racial preferences, now often hidden. Or they hope to introduce new preferences for some ethnic groups. They may have good motives -- as many in my university do -- but acts that are wrong are not made right by good motives.

          Our governments, and our universities, are great teachers. They must not be allowed to discriminate by race or national origin. When that principle is firmly embedded in our state Constitution by the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, we will all be proud. -30-

CARL COHEN is professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and is the author of "Naked Racial Preference: The Case Against Affirmative Action".  Cohen's publication of data showing Michigan's use of race in student admissions presaged two lawsuits -- Grutter and Gratz, et al -- challenging the school's racial preferences.  The cases were ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last Known Link to the Free Press publication of this article:


Additional Related Reading

Washington State Attempting to Weaken Initiative 200 1/25/04

Supreme Court's Univ. Michigan Ruling 6/23/03

Challenges to Proposition 209 Fail (archives)

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