Jennifer Gratz

More than six years after voters approved the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, supporters are rallying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to keep it in place.

The latest effort came on Thursday when the XIV Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Voters in 2006 passed the constitutional amendment that prohibited the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any group or individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin.

However, on Nov. 15, eight federal judges on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck the initiative down. In response, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. With its amicus brief, the XIV Foundation joined Schuette’s effort.

"Much progress has been made over the past 15 years in challenging the discriminatory policies that are errantly described as ‘affirmative action’ policies," said Jennifer Gratz, co-founder of the XIV Foundation. “Eight judges put this progress at risk when they decided to overturn MCRI and the will of over 2.1 million Michigan voters who chose equality over discrimination.”

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Gratz was the plaintiff in an racial discrimination case against the University of Michigan (Gratz v. Bollinger) that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2003, Justices ruled 6-3 that the university's undergraduate admissions policy was unconstitutional.

The XIV Foundation was founded shortly after the 6th Circuit Court decision. It took the name XIV, in reference to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The organization's motto is: "Equal Treatment is the Essence of Equal Rights."

“In light of the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has twice upheld a constitutional amendment in California that has the exact same language as MCRI, the XIV brief argues that lower courts need firm, clear direction on this issue," Gratz said. "Without such clarity ... states and federal courts will continue to struggle with race and gender equity and, in so doing, stymie citizen-led progress toward racial equality."

By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), the group that has been fighting the MCRI, could file a legal response in the case soon. This would likely speed up the time frame for the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether it will take up the matter. Under this faster track scenario — if the high court takes it up — the case could play out as soon as the autumn of 2013.

However, many legal experts believe it is more likely that the case will move on a somewhat slower track. If so (and if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take up the case) the time frame for action would likely be in the spring or summer of 2014.

Gratz also was active in efforts to pass the MCRI.

Signatories to the XIV Foundation amicus brief include:

  • Larry Arnn — president, Hillsdale College; founding chairman, California Civil Rights Initiative
  • Glynn Custred — author, California Civil Rights Initiative
  • Rachel Alexander — chairman, Arizona Civil Rights Initiative
  • Marc Schniederjans — chairman, Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative
  • Leon Drolet — chairman, Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
  • Rep. Gary Hooper — state representative, New Hampshire; sponsor of the New Hampshire Civil Rights Initiative
  • State Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township
  • State Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township
  • State Sen. Dave Robertson , R-Grand Blanc

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