Attorney General, Civil Rights Advocates Respond to Affirmative Action Ruling

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Michigan's voter-approved ban on affirmative action in college admissions is unconstitutional - for now.

A federal court of appeals overturned it by an 8-7 vote Thursday, and now Michigan's attorney general and civil rights advocates are speaking out about the decision as universities figure out what it means for them.

Attorney General Bill Schuette's office called the ruling 'disappointing,' and is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Prepared to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the Michigan Constitution, and he will argue that entrance to our public universities should be based on equality, fairness, and the rule of law," Attorney General Press Secretary Joy Yearout said. "If you look at the logic of it, it simply defies common sense. What the court said today was that when you ban discrimination, you're actually creating discrimination, and it just doesn't make sense at all.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights sees the overturning of Michigan's affirmative action ban a bit differently.

"We believe that this is a decision in the best interest of both the students and the universities in Michigan," Director of Public Affairs for the Department of Civil Rights Leslee Fritz said.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that part of the 2006 voter-initiated amendment, known as Proposal 2, was unconstitutional because it placed an unfair burden on racial minorities.

"Setting a different standard for admissions policies on race created a violation of the equal protection clause," Fritz said.

Michigan State University said in a statement it's reviewing the court's opinion, but they've always considered a range of factors for admission.

"Certainly universities in Michigan all have different policies about how they address the issues of diversity and fairness in their admissions policies," Fritz said. "They know what's right for their students and student body, and that's where these decisions really should be made, and not with politicians."

But some argue this was the will of the people; 58 percent voted 'yes' on Proposal 2.

"This amendment to the constitution was approved by a substantial majority of Michigan voters in 2006, and the Attorney General is committed to respecting the will of the voters, and expects the Supreme Court to agree," Yearout said.

The Attorney General has 90 days to file his request with the Supreme Court. His office expects to take that action in the next couple of weeks.

Yearout said the ruling has no immediate impact on university admissions. The ruling doesn't become binding until the court of appeals issues a formal mandate. The attorney general is asking that be delayed pending the U.S. Supreme Court's Reviews.

The Department of Civil Rights said it expected this response from the attorney general, and they'll just wait and keep advocating.

Many eyes are also on an affirmative action-related case in Texas. MSU and other organizations said they're watching it closely to see how it might impact Michigan.


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