Skip to content

Washington Votes On Whether To Legalize Discrimination

October 26th, 2019 Victoria Breese

The Washington State Civil Rights Initiative, first passed in 1998, outlaws racial preferences in public employment, contracting, and college admissions. At the time, the bill passed with 58% of the vote. People in Washington state now face a vote to roll back this law. The Democratic-controlled state legislature attempted to overturn the ban on preferential treatment. The new proposal allows for the following: “an individual’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, and honorably discharged veteran or military status are factors considered in the selection of qualified women, honorably discharged military veterans, persons in protected age categories, persons with disabilities, and minorities for opportunities in public education, public employment, and public contracting.”

Asian-American Community Pushes For Washington Referendum 

The Washington Asians for Equality group has been outspoken against bringing back racial preferences in their state. The group started a petition and obtained enough signatures to force the issue to be decided in a referendum on the November ballot. The referendum, entitled Referendum 88, states that if a majority of Washingtonians vote no, the legislature’s attempt to restore racial preferences will fail. The Washington Asians for Equality group argues that bringing back racial preferences will unfairly hurt the Asain community by holding Asain applicants to higher standards than those of other races. For example, a similar issue arose with Asain applicants at Harvard. In this instance, admissions officers, who can legally consider an applicant’s race, consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than other races on traits like “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness, and being “widely respected.”

Argument In Support Of The Referendum

Those who support Washington’s push to bring back racial preferences in public employment, contracting and college admissions argue that some discrimination between races is good. Supporters say that preferential treatment based on race allows employers to create a more diverse workforce and grant opportunities to racial groups that have been historically disadvantaged. The difference between this referendum and affirmative action is that this bill allows race to be the sole factor for selecting a lesser-qualified candidate over a more qualified candidate. Affirmative action allows race to be taken into consideration among other factors. The U.S. Supreme Court has not said that affirmative action policies are unconstitutional, however it has banned the use of strict racial quotas in universities. If this Washington Referendum passes, it may head to the Supreme Court if a case questioning the law’s constitutionality arises. 

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you have experienced racial discrimination at work, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.