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Supreme Court Weighs Michigan Affirmative Action Ban

October 15, 2013

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The U.S. Supreme Court was poised to hear argument Tuesday on whether Michigan or any state can ban affirmative action for race or gender reasons.

In the November 2006 election, 58 percent of Michigan's voters adopted Proposal 2, which amended Michigan's Constitution to prohibit discrimination -- or preferential treatment -- in public education, government contracting and public employment based on race, sex, ethnicity or national origin.

In other words, the state cannot discriminate against someone because of race or gender, but it also cannot give preferential treatment to someone based on race or gender.

Almost immediately following the election, a group of plaintiffs led by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the amendment.

The full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, by a vote of 8-7 struck down the state amendment only as it applies to public schools, saying it violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution. It left the rest of the amendment intact.

"It is exceedingly odd to say that a statute which bars a state from 'discriminat[ing] ... on the basis of race' violates the equal protection clause because it discriminates on the basis of race and sex," the state told the U.S. Supreme Court in a petition.

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