Today the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that banned the consideration of race in college admissions. Six members of the Court recognized that the voters have the right to mandate equality under the law and ban unjust discrimination.
In 2006, the voters of Michigan passed Proposal 2—an initiative that amended the state constitution to prohibit the use of race in public education, employment, and contracting. This came after the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that publicly funded schools may use race and ethnicity as “plus” factors in decisions to admit or deny prospective students. But the majority of voters in Michigan took to heart the notion that we live in a nation where people are judged not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”and banned such discrimination.
Though Michigan’s Proposal 2 mandated equal treatment, it was challenged in court as a violation of equal protection. A federal appellate court struck down Proposal 2 as unconstitutional, finding that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution but today the Supreme Court reversed that decision. In a concurring opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out that the issue before the Court was strange: “Does the Equal Protection Clause forbid a State from banning a practice that the Clause barely—and only provisionally—permits?” For six members of the Court, the answer was a resounding “no.” But this case highlights a broader problem.