Backers of a California initiative that would outlaw affirmative action programs for women and people of color and would make sex discrimination legal filed over 1 million signatures Wednesday (February 21) to place the measure on the November ballot. The deceptively titled “California Civil Rights Initiative” would bar the state of California from continuing affirmative action policies used since the 1960s, policies enacted to increase opportunities for women and people of color.
A coalition of more than 100 women’s rights and civil rights groups vowed to defend affirmative action and sex discrimination laws by defeating the CCRI. The Campaign for Women’s Rights and Civil Rights includes the Feminist Majority, the YWCA, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Katherine Spillar, National Coordinator for the Feminist Majority, explained, “This (measure) is a big, big threat to all the rights that women have won in recent years. And it goes without saying that now you’re talking about half the population.”
A little-known clause within the CCRI, Clause C, specifically legalizes discrimination on the basis of sex. “People need to know that if this initiative passes, we’ll be going back to things like firing women from their jobs just because they’ve become pregnant,” Spillar said. “Women’s jobs and women’s paychecks are on the line.”
Opponents of the initiative and supporters alike acknowledge that the effect of this initiative could reach well beyond California. Former campaign manager for the initiative Joe Gelman said, “The idea is to start here and then do away with affirmative action in the entire country.” Already, deceptive “Civil Rights” initiatives are being circulated in 5 other states: Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Illinois, and Washington. Similar legislative efforts have been introduced in 17 states. With the backing of leaders in both houses of Congress, 9 similar bills have been introduced at the federal level.
Supporters of the CCRI include California Governor Pete Wilson ( R ) and Sacramento businessman Ward Connerly.
Text of CCRI