Oklahoma State Senate
Senator Rob Johnson
Chairman, Rules
Senate District 22

For Immediate Release: March 17, 2011

Op-Ed: Eliminating discrimination in state government

As a matter of law, there is no doubt as to whether the United States Constitution currently requires for equal rights among citizens. In practice, however, the historical record from our founding to the present provides us with a list of failures in our effort to meet this seemingly simple standard.

At issue has always been the question of whether equality of opportunity is achievable in a country where groups of ethnic minorities have fought for both fundamental human rights and the legal protections guaranteed by the Constitution.

We have not always succeeded in fulfilling the promise of equal opportunity for all citizens, but I believe we have arrived at a point where America is the destination of choice for men and women of all ethnicities who wish to write the script of their own lives in a place of nearly unlimited opportunity.

I believe it is time for us to move beyond the notion that government must establish double standards to guarantee equal opportunity among individuals. This is why I have authored Senate Joint Resolution 15, which would allow Oklahoma voters to approve an amendment prohibiting discrimination and preferential treatment in state government.

The amendment would ban programs that allow discrimination against, or that give preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnicity or national origin. The law prohibits such considerations in public employment, education and contracting.

For supporters of policies allowing discrimination or preferential treatment, the constitutional requirement for equal protection is trumped by other concerns. Chief among those concerns has been the value of diversity. While I believe it beneficial for everyone to associate with men and women of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, the government should not be vested with the power to engineer that diversity through discriminatory practices or preferential treatment. Diversity should not take precedence over equal opportunity, which is fundamental to the American identity. I’m confident a broad majority of Oklahomans would agree.

Further, I believe Oklahoma voters would agree their tax contributions should not support programs that enable discrimination or preferential treatment. The implementation of such policies can incur significant costs. Entirely new bureaucratic structures have been established to support these programs at every level of government across the country.

Detractors of the proposal have suggested it would result in drastically reduced numbers of minority students in our universities, and fewer minority employees in government. This has not proven to be the case in states such as Washington and California, where similar amendments have been approved.

Innumerable arguments have been used to support programs that allow discrimination or preferential treatment. Laid bare, most of these appeals suggest the creation of new injustices to atone for the injustices of the past. It’s time for us to end this cycle, and it’s time for us to end programs that promote discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex or national origin.

For more information contact:

Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5592

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

March Press Releases | Press Releases