Affirmative action debate heats up in Nebraska

Omaha, NE – Nebraska voters will decide in two weeks if the State Constitution should be amended to ban affirmative action in certain situations.

The ballot measure would ban preferential treatment in public hiring, contracting, or education. The group Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative is backing the measure and collected more than 172,000 signatures to get it on the ballot.

Ward Connerly, representing the Civil Rights Initiative, and David Kramer of Nebraskans United for Change debated the affirmative action measure Wednesday at the Omaha Press Club. Connerly says the time has come to move past affirmative action, and he cites Senator Barack Obama and Governor Sarah Palin as examples.

But Kramer says currently existing affirmative action programs in Nebraska are there due to federal laws, not state ones. He says the ballot measure, if passed, would have unintended consequences. One of those, according to Kramer, would be the elimination of programs encouraging women to study traditionally male fields, and encouraging men to study elementary education.

Kramer argues that a Constitutional amendment isn't needed because it presumes that the Nebraska government is treating people unfairly. But Connerly says it is needed because the Constitution establishes the Government's relationship with the people.