Supreme Court upholds state bans on affirmative action

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action was constitutional, voting 6-to-2 in favor of upholding the law.

The decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action focused on the court’s authority to overrule the law, which 58 percent of Michigan voters approved in 2006. In effect, the court majority concluded the Supreme Court could not interfere with the voters’ will in matters regarding affirmative action.

“There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the majority decision.

Though the ruling is not a direct challenge of the constitutionality of affirmative action, the effects of the decision might reach other states considering the legality of their enrollment policies. Similar bans exist in seven states, including California and Florida.

The ruling also included a notably strong dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who lambasted the court for what she claimed was their insensitivity and ignorance of historic and statistical patterns of discrimination against minority college applicants.

“It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

The NAACP expressed frustration toward the ruling, with its Legal Defense Fund stating it broke with precedent and failed to adequately prevent majority pressure from suppressing minority interests.

“Diversity is good for America,” The NAACP released in an official statement. “And diversity in our universities ensures that the leaders of tomorrow will be prepared to grapple with the challenges of a diverse and dynamic nation. Equal access to participate in self-government is a bedrock of American democracy. That must be protected.”

Conservative-leaning minority activists expressed approval of the ruling. National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi explained though the policy does not directly address the constitutionality of affirmative action, its encouragement of voter referendums against affirmative action was a positive development.

“This is a victory for people who do not want to see race preferences imposed upon them,” “Now it has survived a constitutional challenge and can be considered, as the Obama Administration would say, a law of the land,” Almasi said.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon, who co-chairs the black advocacy group Project 21, which also falls under the umbrella of the conservative National Center, expressed a similar cautious optimism.

“It remains to be seen as to whether this is the definitive ruling which will eliminate racial preference policies, but I am encouraged that we are moving towards creating an equal playing field where the government does not choose the winners and inadvertent losers,” LeBon stated.

The ruling is the second major decision on affirmative action within the past few months that strengthens limits on race-conscious admissions policies. In June, the Supreme Court voted 7-to-1 in favor of moving a University of Texas affirmative action plan to a lower court for tighter scrutiny, but did not rule on the permissibility of the program itself.