Ballot proposal threatens Michigan women, minorities

By |2018-01-15T16:12:19-05:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

DEARBORN – Eliminating affirmative action would be devastating to women’s equality in Michigan, according to a wide-ranging panel speaking at the 2005 Women’s Summit March 11.
Hundreds of women attended the summit, which was held simultaneously at the University of Michigan Dearborn, Western Michigan University, and Michigan State University. The locations were connected by satellite.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm was emotional and passionate as she addressed the summit at UofM Dearborn. “We cannot be well-behaved about this,” she said. “It is good to look out upon a room and see so many uppity, ill-behaved women.”
Granholm also acknowledged the “brave men” present. “I really honor those men who are feminists,” she said.
Granholm acknowledged the social inequities women face. “We’re here for every woman who’s ever asked for a raise because she’s been doing the same work as the man in the cubical next to her,” Granholm said. “We’re here for every woman whose insurance won’t pay for her contraceptives but will pay for his Viagra.”
Debbie Dingell, vice-chairman of General Motors Foundation and wife of Michigan Congressman John Dingell, reminded attendees that women in Michigan make only 67 cents for each dollar men make. “Women in Michigan need a raise and we need it now,” she said. “The glass ceiling is real.”
“We are not at the final destination and should not accept that we are,” she continued. “We have an obligation not to be complacent.”
The summit kicked off a statewide education campaign about the benefits of affirmative action in response to a proposal that will likely be on the 2006 ballot that would ban affirmative-action for universities and state and local governments. The proposal, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, is being pushed and funded by Ward Connerly, a Sacramento-based anti-affirmative action activist who was behind a similar proposal that passed in California in 1996. Proponents submitted 508,000 signatures in January, and the signatures are currently being reviewed.
Susan Kaufmann, associate director of the Center for the Education of Women at UofM, released a report at the summit on the potential impact of the MCRI. Kaufmann used California’s Proposition 209 as a basis for her analysis of the Michigan proposal. She found that Proposition 209 had far-reaching negative consequences for women and minorities.
Since Prop 209’s passage, she said, “Many programs providing access and exposure to education, employment and business opportunity for girls or women and minorities have been challenged, eliminated or amended, including breast cancer screening, battered women’s shelters, science and math programs for girls, summer and after-school programs and teacher training programs.”
At stake, said many of the speakers, was a reversal of the many gains women have made.
Though overt discrimination against women and minorities is not as visible in society, said Western Michigan University President Judi Bailey, covert discrimination is prevalent, making affirmative action necessary.
Diversity itself is also at risk should the MCRI pass. That, said Coleman, would be a disservice to the university. “We are a stronger, richer, more vibrant institution … when we bring everybody to the table,” she said.
Coleman drew parallels between proponents of MCRI and Proposal 2. “Just look at Proposal 2,” she said. “What was the rhetoric? What is the reality?” Backers of Proposal 2 claimed the amendment was about only marriage but proceeded to attack domestic partner benefits as soon as it passed.
ACLU of Michigan’s Legislative Director Shelli Weisberg, who attended the summit, said she was surprised that Proposal 2 and its far-reaching consequences were only mentioned once during the conference.

About the Author:

D'Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.