The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Michigan’s ban on affirmative action Thursday, all but guaranteeing that the issue will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2006 that prohibited public institutions from considering race in employment and admission decisions.
But a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit court struck down the amendment last year, on the grounds that it violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. On Thursday, the full circuit issued an 8-7 ruling that concurred with the panel’s decision.
Since the ruling is in direct conflict with one issued by the Ninth Circuit court, which upheld a similar voter-approved ban in California earlier this year, a future Supreme Court showdown is all but inevitable.
Jennifer Gratz, an activist and leader of the movement to ban race-based preferences, called the decision “outrageous,” and promised the fight would continue.
“Essentially, today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said that equality is unconstitutional,” said Gratz, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Gratz’s nationwide campaign against affirmative action began in 1995 when she was denied admission to the University of Michigan under its race-conscious system, which weighted an applicant’s minority status more heavily than a perfect SAT score. Her case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which struck down the university’s undergraduate admissions, but upheld the law school’s race-based admissions.
Now, Gratz is ready for a return trip.
“Yet again, the University of Michigan will be the subject of an affirmative action battle at the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Gratz. “And this time, I believe that the U.S. Supreme Court will get it right.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette already announced plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
“Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit,” he said in a statement. “We are prepared to take the fight for quality, fairness and the rule of law to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in the case that upheld U-M law school’s race-based admissions, nevertheless argued that states should move toward prohibiting affirmative action, said Gratz.
“[O’Connor] pointed to the states that had eliminated these policies and said all states can and should be moving in that direction,” said Gratz. “What Michigan voters did was exactly in line with what the U.S. Supreme Court told us to do.”
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