LANSING (AP) – Attorney General Mike Cox said Thursday that his office will go to federal court to “vigorously” defend Michigan voters’ decision to ban some public affirmative action programs in the state.

For now, Cox plans to oppose a request from three Michigan universities to delay implementation of the proposal past its planned effective date of Dec. 23. Cox said it appears to him the universities are trying to indefinitely derail Proposal 2 – which was approved in the November election – because the schools have not specified an extension date in their federal court pleadings.

Cox said he would be open to an extension allowing universities to complete their current admissions and financial aid cycles under existing rules if they had a specific date attached.

“We are attempting to uphold the results of the election, the voice of the Michigan voters, the will of the people,” Cox said.

Cox, a Republican, also may be at odds with Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm over Proposal 2. Cox said the governor has requested a separate legal team from Cox’s office as her administration prepares for a federal court date related to the implementation of the constitutional amendment.

Unlike Cox, Granholm had opposed Proposal 2. Granholm wanted different lawyers to avoid any potential conflicts as the legal process unfolds, spokeswoman Liz Boyd said.

But Boyd said it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about Granholm’s legal strategy based on her request for different legal representation.

“We are just now meeting with legal counsel,” Boyd said. “Certainly we will have more to say in the days to come.”

The new amendment banning the use of race and gender preferences in public university admissions and government hiring has been challenged in federal court by a pro-affirmative action group called By Any Means Necessary, which wants to block it from taking effect. Cox said he will file to intervene in that case before U.S. District Judge David Lawson.

A hearing date has not been set.

BAMN, which lost several court battles before voters approved the amendment in November, says the measure should be pre-empted by federal civil rights acts and would violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Some state universities have been named as defendants in that lawsuit, along with the state of Michigan. In a motion filed in response, three universities – the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University – have asked for more time to implement the necessary changes required by the new law.

The universities want to complete this year’s admissions and financial aid cycles using the same standards that have been in place since the process began earlier this year. Those cycles, which end in May 2007 or later, mostly affect students who would enter college in fall 2007.

The anti-affirmative-action initiative, called Proposal 2 on the Michigan ballot, was prompted by a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a general affirmative action policy at the University of Michigan’s law school but struck down the school’s undergraduate admissions formula.

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman has said the university will obey the law, a pledge reiterated Thursday in a written statement from the university.

“The legal action we have initiated requests only a short-term delay in the implementation of Proposal 2, to allow for a consistent process in the current admissions cycle,” the statement said. “The university does not have plans to take further legal action.”

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