California’s state Constitution forbids a unit of government awarding public contracts to discriminate or grant preferential treatment based on race or gender (Cal. Const. Article I, § 31, from Prop 209). The City and County of San Francisco, among other municipalities, has preferentially awarded public contracts to minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) and women-owned business enterprises (WBEs). San Francisco’s MBE and WBE programs have been modified and limited in response to over 20 years of litigation and earlier federal court rulings that found Fourteenth Amendment equal protection violations from preferential contracting, and so instead San Francisco took the initiative to challenge the no-discrimination clause of the state Constitution. In last week’s decision, the California Supreme Court upheld the state Constitutional provision against race and gender based set-asides in public employment, public education, or public contracting, by the state of California or any political subdivisions of the state. (Coral Construction, Inc. v. San Francisco, Cal. Supreme Court No. S152934, August 2, 2010).
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