By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
SOUTHFIELD – Leaders of the coalition One United Michigan appeared at a press conference on April 6 to pledge their joint opposition to a proposed state Constitutional amendment to ban affirmative action programs.
Civil rights, religious, business, women’s rights and political leaders from across the spectrum have joined One United Michigan, formed to defeat the California-sponsored proposal. Speakers at the April 6 event included Steering Committee co-Chairs Debbie Dingell, Paul Hillegonds and Heaster Wheeler, as well as NAACP Detroit President Rev. Wendell Anthony, Monsignor McClory of the Detroit Archdiocese and Mark Gaffney, President of Michigan’s AFL-CIO.
Hillegonds said the ballot proposal would hurt Michigan’s economy if passed.
“We cannot afford to tell anyone in Michigan they should be shut out of opportunities for education and jobs,” he said. “To close down programs aimed at encouraging young women and minorities to become scientists and engineers flies in the face of our efforts to create a knowledge economy in Michigan.”
Both presumptive candidates for governor, incumbent Democrat Jennifer Granholm and Republican Dick Devos, oppose the proposal, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
“It is moving to see such a diverse group of Michigan leaders coming together to support affirmative action,” said Anthony. “Michigan will reject the efforts of invaders like [ballot sponsor, California activist] Wardell Connerly to use their out-of-state cash to destroy equal opportunity and diversity programs.”
Over 100 Michigan organizations have announced their opposition to the proposal, including the League of Women Voters, the Michigan Catholic Conference, the ACLU of Michigan, and the Grand Rapids and Detroit chambers of council.
LGBT organizations and individuals are also active members of the coalition. Community activist Howard Israel, Between The Lines co-Publisher Susan Horowitz, Triangle Foundation Executive Director Jeffrey Montgomery, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center and Michigan Equality are among the LGBT leaders and organizations that have banded together to stop passage of the proposal.
One United Michigan Executive Director Trisha Stein said of the LGBT leaders that they have “been very active in the coalition meetings, they are organizing at a very grassroots level and they are a very important partner with us.”
Asked about the potential for such a diverse group to come together on other issues once the ballot fight is over, Stein was optimistic.
“When I initially got encouraged to do this – because I had worked with more of the people than many had – I used to make a joke that this group of people had never worked together before, and would never work together again,” Stein said. “And I no longer make that joke, because people have really developed a respect and an understanding and developed relationships, and this is the beginning, I think. We all have many common values, and I think you have seen friendships made that will have an impact in many areas for decades to come.”
For more information, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit http://www.oneunitedmichigan.org or call 517-482-1438.