Colorado Senate Defeats Anti-Affirmative Action Measure
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 3/26/2004In a victory for equal opportunity, the Colorado Senate defeated legislation --18 to 17 -- that would have eradicated affirmative action programs in the state. Colorado state Senator Lew Entz, R., joined 17 Democrats to oppose the bill (SB 194).
Although supporters had dubbed the measure the "Colorado Civil Rights Act," civil rights advocacy groups, including Colorado Unity, a diverse statewide coalition of more than 90 civil rights and social justice organizations, maintained that SB 194 did not protect Colorado citizens' civil rights, particularly those of women and minorities. Further, they said, the legislation would have hurt progress being made in increasing access to opportunities for women and minorities.
Sponsored by Colorado state Senator Ed Jones, R., and state Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R., the measure aimed to ban affirmative action programs in public hiring, contracting, and admissions to public colleges and universities.
Affirmative action supporters believed that the bill's introduction was prompted by statements made by Colorado Governor Bill Owens, R., following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which reaffirmed that universities may take race into consideration as one factor among many when selecting incoming students.
After the Grutter decision, Governor Owens had said, if passed by the state legislature, he would sign into law legislation banning the use of affirmative action in higher education.
In a March 18 hearing of the bill in the state's Senate Education Committee, 34 people testified in support of affirmative action and against SB 194, including local representatives from the League of Women Voters, League of United Latin American Citizens, Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce, Colorado State Board of Education, Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and Colorado Unity.
Only five individuals testified in favor of the legislation, including representatives from the Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Equal Opportunity Alliance.
Colorado Unity is a coalition that formed in order to defend and protect affirmative action programs in the state.
In January, the group organized a statewide summit in Denver to promote a greater understanding of and need for affirmative action programs. At the summit, they also discussed strategies to defeat anti-affirmative action efforts that could roll back progress Colorado has made.