Supreme Court Upholds Voter-Approved Michigan Ban on Race-Sensitive Admissions

supremecourtThe United States Supreme Court has upheld a ban on race-sensitive admissions at state-operated universities, passed by Michigan voters. In 2006, voters in Michigan overwhelming approved Proposal 2 which prohibited the use of race in admissions decisions. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary filed suit claiming that the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The federal district court ruled for the state but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court has now reversed the Appeals Court decision.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling the ban on raced-based affirmative action admissions in Michigan will remain in effect. Justice Stephen Breyer joined the Court’s five-member conservative wing in the decision. Justices Sotomayer and Ginsburg dissented. Justice Kagan did not participate in the decision.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said, “Deliberative debate on sensitive issues such as racial preferences all too often may shade into rancor. But that does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the voters’ reach. Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate.”

In his concurring opinion Justice Breyer stated, “I continue to believe that the Constitution permits, though it does not require, the use of the kind of race-conscious programs that are now barred by the Michigan Constitution.”

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayer wrote, “We are fortunate to live in a democratic society. But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups. For that reason, our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do.”

The full decision may be downloaded by clicking here.


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