LANSING (AP) – A proposal that would ban some affirmative action programs in Michigan has taken a major step toward making it onto the ballot, but two prominent Michigan Republican candidates have come out against it.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a state elections board should allow the proposal to appear on the November 2006 ballot. The ruling is a victory for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which backs the proposed constitutional amendment to ban racial and gender preferences in government hiring and university admissions.

On Monday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos and GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Keith Butler both issued statements saying they oppose the MCRI proposal, while GOP Senate candidate Jerry Zandstra said he supports it.

Butler, who is black, had repeatedly declined to answer earlier questions on whether he supported or opposed the ballot proposal. Monday was the first time he announced his position. He strongly denounced the proposal in a news release.

“This proposal is wrong for Michigan. We still live in a society where some among us still need assistance,” Butler said.

“I do not support quotas or set aside programs for anyone,” he added. “This proposal will, however, terminate many worthwhile programs including, any Michigan program that aims to increase opportunities for women including recruitment, training, and outreach programs in public education, and employment.”

DeVos, expected to be the lone Republican to challenge Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, also released a statement saying he opposed the proposal.

“I am particularly concerned that this initiative may have the unintended consequence of negatively impacting programs aimed at helping women in education,” DeVos said in a statement. “It may also restrict girls-only and boys-only schools that have proven to be successful.”

Zandstra, of Cutlerville, said he was ready to debate Butler and the other GOP Senate candidate, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, over the merits of the ballot proposal.

“Congratulations to MCRI for their hard work in getting on the ballot,” Zandstra said in a statement. “I am a strong believer in racial equality and meritocracy.”

Zandstra, Butler and Bouchard all are seeking the GOP nomination to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. A spokeswoman for the Bouchard campaign didn’t have a comment on the issue Monday.

The Board of State Canvassers failed to approve or reject the MCRI’s petitions this summer, prompting the group to seek court action to get on the ballot.

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