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California law barring affirmative action takes effect

Jackson to lead protest march

August 28, 1997
Web posted at: 8:47 a.m. EDT (1247 GMT)
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CALIFORNIA (CNN) -- Nine months after California voters approved it by 54%, a controversial law outlawing state affirmative action programs took effect Thursday. Proposition 209, as the law is known, bars preferential treatment based on race or gender in public employment, education and contracting in California.

Last week, a federal appeals court in San Francisco stood by its earlier ruling that the state law is constitutional.

Opponents planned to ask the Supreme Court soon to stop implementation of the law until it decided whether to review the case. But they had not filed papers by late Wednesday, meaning Proposition 209 would take effect, at least temporarily.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was expected to lead an anti-Proposition 209 protest march across the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay on Thursday. The march was to start on the Marin County side of the bridge and conclude with a rally on San Francisco's waterfront.

Here's how enrollment breaks down for UCLA's latest group of first-year law students, compared to figures for last year's class.

  • White: + 30%
  • Asian: + 70%
  • Latino: - 17%
  • African-American: - 50%

Changes at UCLA

Opponents point to the University of California as a sign of what may be in store under the new law. Three University of California law schools accepted far fewer minority students this year after university regents scrapped racial preferences in student admissions.

By contrast, last year's graduating class at UCLA's law school was the most diverse in the school's history.

Monica Cazares, a second-year law student at UCLA, says the affirmative action policy that allowed her and other minority students to enter the school has affected their relationship with classmates.

"A comment that was made that 'these students get in because they check a box,'" she told CNN. "It took a very long time for one of the students of color to actually have the courage to raise their hand and educate everyone."


Despite the drop in African-American and Latino enrollment, UCLA still has a more diverse student body than the rest of the University of California system.

Michael Rappaport, dean of admissions at the UCLA Law School, said that's partly because of a policy that still weighs-in an applicant's socio-economic disadvantages.

Start of a trend?

Supporters and opponents alike see California as setting a precedent and believe passage of Proposition 209 may encourage other states to roll back affirmative action programs that have been used in the United States since the 1960s.

Proposition 209 supporters, like California Gov. Pete Wilson, have praised the appeals court's recent rulings in the case. "The efforts of a determined group of special interests to perpetuate racially based decision-making in this state are rapidly being exhausted," Wilson said this week.

San Francisco officials said the city would continue to implement its existing affirmative action programs, which deal mainly with minority contracting, despite Proposition 209.

"I intend to continue vigorously to defend the city's affirmative action program against any challenge in court," San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne said.

In a related development, the University of Texas law school, forced to abandon affirmative action, began classes Wednesday with four blacks and 26 Mexican-Americans among 468 new students.

Last year, 31 blacks and 42 Mexican-Americans were enrolled.

School officials blamed the drop on a federal appeals court ruling which said that UT could no longer use race as a factor in admissions and scholarships. The Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand last year.

Correspondent Jennifer Auther and Reuters contributed to this report.

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