Senator Rob Johnson
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
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
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
For more information contact:
Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5592