In 1996 voters in California approved Proposition 209, a ballot initiative that amended the California Constitution to prohibit the state from “discriminat[ing] against, or grant[ing] preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the base of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
“Racial preferences are dead,” declared Ward Connerly, a leading advocate of Prop. 209, in a 1998 interview with Reason‘s Michael Lynch. “We are going back to what John F. Kennedy said in 1963, that ‘race has no place in American life or law.'”
Nearly a quarter-century later, supporters of affirmative action are hoping to repeal Connerly’s handiwork. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “California voters would be asked to erase the state’s 24-year ban on affirmative action in November under a proposal approved [on June 10] by the state Assembly, with supporters arguing their effort is more important than ever amid nationwide protests for racial equality and justice.”
Known as Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, the proposal would explicitly repeal the language of Prop. 209, which can be found in Section 31, Article 1 of the California Constitution. “It is the intent of the Legislature,” declares ACA5, “that California remedy discrimination against, and underrepresentation of, certain disadvantaged groups in a manner consistent with the United States Constitution and allow gender, racial, and ethnic diversity to be considered among the factors used to decide college admissions and hiring and contracting by government institutions.”
The bill is now in the hands of the state Senate, which must ratify the measure by June 25 if it is going to appear on the November 3 ballot.