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Arizona's English-only law ruled unconstitutional

April 29, 1998
Web posted at: 6:21 a.m. EDT (1021 GMT)

PHOENIX (CNN) -- A voter-approved English-only measure that brought cries of racism in Arizona was ruled unconstitutional Tuesday by the state's highest court.

In a unanimous decision, the Arizona Supreme Court said the law requiring that official government business be conducted in English unfairly interfered with the access to government by those who did not speak the language.

The court also said that the 1988 amendment to the state's constitution unlawfully restricted the free-speech rights of public employees and elected officials.

But justices steered clear of stating that government must provide services in another language -- other than those already required by federal law.

Backers of the measure vowed Tuesday to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court in light of the ruling in a state with a sizeable Spanish-speaking population.

Arizona's English-only law states that not only is English Arizona's official language, but that all government business must be transacted in "English and in no other language." The requirement also extends to all government documents.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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