Oklahoma – SQ 759
What is State Question 759?
State Question 759 is a constitutional amendment that appeared on the November 6, 2012 ballot asking voters if the Oklahoma government should be allowed to continue to grant preferential treatment to, or discriminate against, any group or individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in 3 specific areas: public employment, public education, or public contracting.
SQ 759 passed with 59% of the vote.
What prompted State Question 759?
March 6, 2011 was the 50th anniversary of affirmative action being created. Affirmative action wasn’t meant to be a permanent policy, nor was it initially meant to include race and gender preferences. It seems that the 50th anniversary of this policy is a good time for the people of Oklahoma to consider ending the practice of preferences and discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and ethnicity in the operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting.
What is wrong with the government granting preferential treatment based on race or sex?
Race and gender preferences foster resentment and marginalize minorities and women. Policies that employ race and gender preferences send a message that the beneficiaries of preferences aren’t smart, motivated or talented enough to compete without some extra help from the government based solely on skin color or ethnicity.
If the people vote to place this language into the constitution, will this ban all affirmative action?
Affirmative Action has become distorted. President Kennedy first used the term in Executive Order 10925. This Order stated, “The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Therefore, this will not ban affirmative action in general. It will ban programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes, regardless of if they are called affirmative action programs or not. Left intact are affirmative action programs that are socioeconomic based, that reach out to women and minorities, that seek to eliminate bias in testing, and in fact all such programs that do not give preferential treatment as described above.
Do race-based quotas still exist?
Although you will likely never hear programs described as quotas, the functional equivalent of a quota still exists. When the opposition says that “race is considered” they often also say that there is a “goal,” “target” or a “percentage” in place. “Goals,” “targets” and “percentages” are quotas.
If the people vote to place this language into the constitution, what will it affect?
It will only affect government programs that grant preference or discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, skin color or national origin in 3 specific areas: public contracting, public employment, and public education.
Would this amendment apply to private companies, private organizations or private scholarships?
No. This will only apply to government action in the areas of public education, employment and contracting.
Have similar measures passed in other states?
Yes – it passed in California (1996, 55%-45%), Washington (1998, 59%-41%), Michigan (2006, 58%-42%), Nebraska (2008, 58%-42%) and Arizona (2010, 60%-40%).
Do race and gender Preferences cost taxpayers?
Administering bid preferences, such as are done in the city of Tulsa, drive up the costs of government and amount to a drain on taxpayer dollars to sponsor race, ethnicity and gender based preferences bearing no relation to the public work to be completed under the public contract being awarded. SQ 759 ends public discrimination and saves scarce public funds at the same time.
What about diversity?
All Oklahoma citizens have a right to fair and equal treatment. Opponents of SQ 759 say that we need race and sex preferences to promote diversity. Diversity is not skin deep. When opponents say “diversity” they mean we need more minorities. Diversity should never be an excuse for the government to discriminate and engage in racial gerrymandering.
What is at the heart of SQ 759?
Fairness. SQ 759 is about fairness for all Oklahomans. This is a country and especially a state built on the principle of merit. How can we move beyond race when our very own government requires you to check a box and then be treated differently based on what race you check?
Oklahoma Secretary of State Ballot Language
Legislative History document
The exact words that would be added to the Oklahoma Constitution:
A. The state shall not grant preferential treatment to, or discriminate against, any individual or group on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.
B. This section shall apply only to action taken after the effective date of this section.
C. Nothing in the section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.
D. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as invalidating any court order or consent decree that is in force as of the effective date of this section.
E. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.
F. For the purposes of this section, “state” shall include, but not be limited to, the state itself or an agency institution, instrumentality, or political subdivision of the state.
G. The remedies available for violations of this section shall be the same, regardless of the injured party’s race, color, sex, ethnicity or national origin, as are otherwise available for violations of the antidiscrimination laws of the this state.