The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether Michigan or any state can ban race- or sex-based preference in government actions.
The case focuses on university admissions, but is much broader.
In the November 2006 election, 58 percent of Michigan's voters approved a proposal that amended the state constitution. The amendment banned discrimination, or the granting of preferential treatment, in public education, government contracting and public employment based on race, sex, ethnicity or national origin.
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.
Eventually the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled 8-7 that the law violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In asking for U.S. Supreme Court review, the state said: "Michigan recognizes that affirmative action has long been controversial; some state entities use it for some programs, some do not. But until now, no court has ever held that, apart from remedying specific past discrimination, a government must engage in affirmative action. This [Supreme] Court has said just the opposite, holding that all racial classification by government entities [is] presumptively invalid and subject to the strictest scrutiny."
Justice Elena Kagan, who was U.S. solicitor general before reaching the high court in August 2010, did not participate in accepting the case.
Argument in the case should be heard next term.
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