As Attorney General Bill Schuette defended the state's referendum ban on affirmative action, members of the Michigan NAACP voiced their opposition on the steps of the state capitol.
"Affirmative Action isn't just saying hey we want more people of color but it's also to provide a sense of comfort of knowing you belong," said Kayla Jones, president of the NAACP Youth and College Division. "If you're only 12 percent of the entire student body, that does something to you as someone that's trying to achieve higher education."
The NAACP says affirmative action -- admitting a greater number of students of a certain race, ethnicity or gender -- is necessary in some cases to make up for lost ground.
"We need programs like affirmative action to bring us up to at least a level that's comfortable and equitable to others who have been afforded this for many years," said Yvonne Wight, president of the Michigan NAACP.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the University of Michigan could consider race when making admissions decisions. Then Michigan voters took things into their own hands, gathering signatures to put a referendum on the ballot that would ban those decisions. The measure passed with 58 percent of the vote, amending the state constitution.
"I am very confident, extremely confident the United States Supreme Court will uphold Michigan's Constitution," said Attorney General Bill Schuette. "We're saying it's wrong, fundamentally wrong, to treat people differently based on the color of their skin, their race, their gender ethnicity or national origin. In Michigan, we're requiring equal treatment."
Only eight justices are deciding the case -- Elena Kagan has excused herself -- which means a 4-4 tie is a possibility. In that case, the U.S. 6th District Court's decision, meaning the Proposal 2 referendum would be rendered unconstitutional -- a victory for affirmative action advocates.