Utah backers of amendment to ban affirmative action abandon fight

Published March 11, 2010 1:57 pm
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Backers of a contentious push to amend Utah's Constitution to ban affirmative action have abandoned the fight this year, unable to swing four Republican holdouts in the House.

"We've agreed to stand down," said Jeff Hartley, who had been hired by the American Civil Rights Institute to lobby for the amendment banning preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Leadership offered to study the issue during the summer and it will likely be back next year.

House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, said he is relieved the fight is over. He said the amendment proponents use deceptive practices to further their cause and that the Constitutional Revision Commission raised serious concerns about the language of the amendment.

Litvack said it is an "anti-civil rights" measure that would undermine outreach programs to minority communities and women.

"There's no evidence that this idea of reverse discrimination, quotas is even happening and then we want to amend the Constitution based on that?" he asked. "This is a national agenda that is being driven into the state of Utah. We Utahns need to do what's best for Utah."

It takes an affirmative vote from two-thirds of legislators -- 50 in the House and 20 in the Senate -- and the governor's signature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The movement stalled out with the vote count at "49 and a maybe," said Hartley. The holdouts were Republican Reps. Kay McIff of Richfield, Rebecca Edwards of Bountiful, Sheryl Allen of Bountiful and Ronda Menlove of Garland.

"Odds are very high that this will be an election issue," said Hartley. "The challenge for Republicans that don't want to vote for this is they don't want to support the party platform."

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