Amendment 46 would essentially do away with affirmative action in Colorado. But opponents of the constitutional amendment argue it could also bring the end of gender and race educational programs.
If voters approve it Nov. 4, the amendment will prohibit Colorado governments from showing preference to or discriminating against anyone applying for school, a public job or contract based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin.
The amendment is "overdue," according to Jessica Peck Corry, executive director of pro-Amendment 46 group, the Civil Rights Initiative. Women make up 56 percent of Colorado college students. She'd prefer to see the number of men and women in college even out. If people are going to show preference in hiring or college admissions, Peck Corry said she'd prefer to see them do it based on economic disadvantage.
"Women and minorities are over-represented in hiring. It really doesn't destroy affirmative action, it opens it up," she said of the amendment.
Melissa Hart, a civil rights lawyer and law professor at the University of Colorado, disagrees. Quotas are already illegal, she said, and minority students made up one-fifth of all Colorado college students in 2004.
"We don't have some kind of problem of over-serving our minority students in Colorado schools," Hart said.
Hart worries that programs for women and girls will go away if the amendment passes. Peck Corry said programs through institutions may end, but privately funded ones could continue.
The fight for and against the amendment may be raging among Coloradans, but it started with black California businessman Ward Connerly. Peck Corry called him a "civil rights hero." Hart decried Connerly's efforts to overturn affirmative action in other states, saying minority representation decreased at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley after a similar measure passed in the Golden State.
Hart said denying the amendment will help foster better representation in school.
"In 2006 at UCLA, only 2 percent of students were African American. Latino representation also dropped dramatically. When you start cutting out that perspective, you're hurting everyone in the classroom," she said.
Peck Corry believes everyone should have the same chance at a spot in that classroom.
"I don't want to live in a country that says because you were born with the wrong biology, we're going to exclude you from these programs," she said.
Reach Emily Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.