Standing room only

The court fight against the proposed Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which seeks a constitutional ban on the state's affirmative action programs, has grown more crowded.

Last Friday, the ACLU of Michigan filed an amicus brief in the case now before the state Supreme Court. The Detroit Urban League, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, the Detroit branch of the NAACP and the National Bar Association all joined with the ACLU, which sides with the State Board of Canvassers, the defendants in the case.

In December 2005, Democrats on the board blocked efforts to put the measure on the November 2006 ballot. Initiative backers sued, and the Michigan Court of Appeals subsequently ordered the canvassers to place the MCRI's measure before voters this fall. Citing allegations of fraud surrounding the MCRI petition campaign, the ACLU's brief asks that the supremes reverse the appellate court's decision.

Kary Moss, executive director for the ACLU of Michigan, says her organization decided to join the fray after hearing Michigan residents say they were duped into signing the petitions. The residents, who testified at public hearings conducted by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights Commission over the past two months, said signature gatherers told them their petitions were "for civil rights" or "for affirmative action."

"We were particularly struck by the number of people who stepped forward" at the hearings, Moss told News Hits.

Harold Core, spokesman for the Civil Rights Commission, says that more than 200 people offered sworn testimony and filed affidavits at the two hearings. This number doesn't reflect the testimony that continues to reach his office, he says, though he hasn't had a chance to count those.

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