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Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

Credit David Jesse @freephighered / Twitter

The U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling this morning in favor of Michigan's 2006 constitutional ban on using affirmative action in college admissions.

Six justices ruled in favor of Michigan's ban, but for different reasons. Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg dissented, and Justice Kagan recused herself from the case.

The majority opinion upheld the ban on the principle that "voters in the States may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences."

More from the opinion:

This case is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Here, the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible when certain conditions are met is not being challenged. Rather, the question concerns whether, and in what manner, voters in the States may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences.

Jennifer Gratz successfully sued the University of Michigan over using racial preferences in their undergraduate college admissions process. She also helped to lead the campaign to put an affirmative action ban in place in Michigan in 2006. She says the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold a state ban on using race and/or gender in the university admissions process is a "great victory" for voters and the state.

More from the Associated Press:

Jennifer Gratz says the ruling Tuesday is good news for university applicants who will know they're being accepted or rejected based on merit.

The court's ruling overturns a decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That court ruled that Michigan's constitutional ban on using race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the college admissions process violated the constitution's equal protection clause (the 14th Amendment).

That court basically argued that the ban places an undue burden on minorities to participate equally in the political process.  The dissenting U.S. Supreme Court Jusitices, Sotomayor and Ginsberg, argued on the same principle.

From their dissent:

While our Constitution does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently, forcing the minority alone to surmount unique obstacles in pursuit of its goals – here, educational diversity that cannot reasonably be accomplished through race-neutral measures. Today, by permitting a majority of the voters in Michigan to do what our Constitution forbids, the Court ends the debate over race-sensitive admissions policies in Michigan in a manner that contravenes constitutional protections long recognized in our precedents.

*This post has been updated.

Mark Brush was Michigan Radio’s Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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