High court upholds Michigan's affirmative action ban - Fox 2 News Headlines

High court upholds Michigan's affirmative action ban

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The court heard oral arguments on the case back on Oct. 15, 2013. The court heard oral arguments on the case back on Oct. 15, 2013.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions.

The justices said in a 6-2 ruling that Michigan voters had the right to change their state constitution in 2006 to prohibit public colleges and universities from taking account of race in admissions decisions. The justices said that a lower federal court was wrong to set aside the change as discriminatory.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said voters chose to eliminate racial preferences, presumably because such a system could give rise to race-based resentment.

Kennedy said nothing in the Constitution or the court's prior cases gives judges the authority to undermine the election results.

"This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it," Kennedy said.

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision tramples on the rights of minorities, even though the amendment was adopted democratically. "But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups," said Sotomayor, who read her dissent aloud in the courtroom Tuesday. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sided with Sotomayor in dissent.

At 58 pages, Sotomayor's dissent was longer than the combined length of the four opinions in support of the outcome.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with Kennedy.

Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case, presumably because she worked on it at an earlier stage while serving in the Justice Department.

In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race among many factors in college admissions in a case from Michigan.

Three years later, affirmative action opponents persuaded Michigan voters to change the state constitution to outlaw any consideration of race.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the issue was not affirmative action, but the way in which its opponents went about trying to bar it.

In its 8-7 decision, the appeals court said the provision ran afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment because it presents an extraordinary burden to affirmative action supporters who would have to mount their own long, expensive campaign to repeal the constitutional provision.

Similar voter-approved initiatives banning affirmative action in education are in place in California and Washington state. A few other states have adopted laws or issued executive orders to bar race-conscious admissions policies.

Black and Latino enrollment at the University of Michigan has dropped since the ban took effect. At California's top public universities, African-Americans are a smaller share of incoming freshmen, while Latino enrollment is up slightly, but far below the state's growth in the percentage of Latino high school graduates.

The case was the court's second involving affirmative action in as many years. In June, the justices ordered lower courts to take another look at the University of Texas admissions plan in a ruling that could make it harder for public colleges to justify any use of race in admissions.

The case is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 12-682.

Fox 2's Amy Lange is working the story and she is getting reactions from all sides on today's historic decision.  See her full report on Fox 2 News and as video is added to this story.

STATEMENT FROM XIV FOUNDATION:


Today, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The Court upheld Michigan's constitutional ban on race and gender-based affirmative action policies. Jennifer Gratz, CEO of the XIV Foundation and the woman who spearheaded the voter initiative that banned race preferences, expected this outcome but was relieved nonetheless by the Court's decision.

Ms. Gratz expressed optimism about the future of equality in America. "Much progress has been made over the past 15 years in challenging discriminatory policies based on race preferences and moving toward colorblind government," Gratz stated. "Today's ruling preserves this foundation and is a clear signal that states are moving in the right direction when they do away with policies that treat people differently based on race, gender, ethnicity or skin color."

Nearly seven years ago in 2006, Michigan voters passed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) by a margin of 58 to 42 percent. This initiative made it unconstitutional for the state to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any group or individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin." Seven other states have passed similar measures.

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