Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Domestic Violence Shelters and Prop 107 Redux

Some opponents of measures like Arizona’s Proposition 107, which would amend the state constitution to bar the government from discriminating against or granting preferences to individuals based on race in employment, education, or contracting, claim such measures would prohibit tax dollars from going to domestic violence shelters for women, and the like.
I think people who make this claim are being disingenuous. (That’s partly why they use the term “affirmative action” instead of “racial preferences.”) Do domestic violence shelters for women fall into the categories of government employment, education, or contracting? No, they do not.
According to the American Civil Rights Institute’s Jennifer Gratz, plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Gratz v. Bollinger, even if domestic violence shelters for women fell into one or more of these categories, there would be an exception for bone fide qualifications based on sex. She noted that the four states in which preferences are banned still have domestic violence shelters.
KVOA interviewed a few people for their story about Prop. 107, including Gratz:
“Two wrongs don’t make a right”…When Gratz applied to the University of Michigan in 1995, she thought she had a pretty good shot. She had good grades and scores and was student council vice president. But Gratz was rejected and says there were different admissions standards depending on skin color.
“I had thought that I had put together a good application and once I found out that my race was used against me in that application process, I thought that that was wrong,” Gratz said.
Gratz filed a lawsuit against the school which went all the way to the Supreme Court. The court decided Michigan’s specific policy was unconstitutional, but in another case, said that race can be used in the admissions process.
“The best way to make sure people aren’t discriminated against is to stop discriminating,” Gratz said.
KVOA also quotes Lea Marquez Peterson, President and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: “Beyond the business perspective it could impact domestic violence shelter funding for women, teen pregnancy funding.”
Does the chamber of commerce really believe Prop. 107 would block funding for shelters? (I hope no tax funds aren’t going to abortion services for teens or adults, but that’s another topic for a different blog and beyond the scope of Prop. 107.)
I suspect not. But it makes for a good sound bite for those already inclined to vote against race- and sex-neutrality in government employment, education, and contracting.


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