State Question 759 would prohibit certain preferential treatment or discrimination in areas of employment, education and state contracting, according to the Nov. 6 state question ballot. Affirmative action programs in these three areas of government would be prohibited, but the ballot also states that discrimination in these areas remains prohibited as well.
“It restores a level playing field where individuals are judged on merit instead of race or color or gender,” said state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond.
Private businesses most impacted by the proposed lifting of affirmative action requirements will be those who have received government contracts in the past due to racial or gender preferences. Minority-owned businesses may be more competitive in obtaining certain types of contracts due to affirmative action policies.
“But there’s countless others who have not been given that benefit and so they have not been playing on a level field,” Grau said.
SQ 759 permits affirmative action in three instances: “When gender is a bonafide qualification, it is allowed. Existing court orders and consent decrees that require preferred treatment will continue and can be followed. Affirmative action is allowed when needed to keep or obtain federal funds,” according to the ballot language.
The measure applies to the state, its agencies, counties, cities, towns, school districts and other state subdivisions, according to the ballot.
Affirmative action requirements by the federal government have no bearing on SQ 759, Grau said, because SQ 759 would exempt programs that are necessary for federal funding.
State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said passage of SQ 759 would put everyone on an equal playing field. “It’s important,” he said.
“The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. was that we do not judge people by the color of their skin but on character and merit,” Grau said. “We have a president of the United States that has one of the most diverse and unique backgrounds that you can possibly imagine,” Grau said. “… I think that shows we are not a nation that is so hung up on race as we once were.”
State Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, agreed that the issuance of state contracts should be based on merit and the best value to the taxpayer.
S.Q. 759 came to the ballot after the Legislature approved Senate Joint Resolution 759, co-sponsored by state Sen. Rob Johnson of Kingfisher and state Rep. Leslie Osborn of Tuttle.
The Edmond Sun tried repeatedly over a two-week period to reach state Sen. Rob Johnson through his office to comment on this story, but did not hear from him.
According to the Equal Opportunity Commission, more than 1,400 charges of discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, gender or physical disability were made against employers in Oklahoma last year.
Among the groups in oppostion to SQ 759 are the American Civil Liberties Union, the Peace House, the NAACP and Oklahoma Policy Institute.
“Oklahomans deserve a public sector that affords equal access to all its residents, not so-called ‘color-blind’ policies that preserve and perpetuate status quo discrimination. SQ 759 is unnecessary, draconian and a giant leap backwards for Oklahoma,” stated OK Policy Blog.
TO LEARN MORE about Oklahoma state questions, go to https://www.sos.ok.gov/gov/proposed_questions.aspx.