Next Monday, October 14, 2013, many of us will tune into what should be an exciting matchup on Monday Night Football; however the United States Supreme court will hear an argument that ought to spark some interest in the State of Michigan. I am talking about the Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, which potentially can impact millions of Michiganders and many millions more across the United States. The main issue presented before the Supreme Court is “whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause by amending its constitution to prohibit race and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions.”
On November 2006, Michigan voters passed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (Proposal 2) into the Michigan Constitution. Proposal 2 states, in part, Affirmative action programs “…and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” In addition, Proposal 2 includes the same language and applies it to the State, which includes “…the state, any city, county…”
Schuette’s main argument is centered on that Proposal 2 does not violate the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states, in part, “…No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Schuette’s main contention is that Proposal 2 does the opposite, in which it prohibits a State or public college or university from classifying individuals by race or gender. Schuette relies upon the 1976 Supreme Court Case, Washington v. Davis, which the Court held that “…the central purpose of the Equal Protection Clause is to prevent official conduct discriminating on the basis of race.” In this instance, Schuette’s major hurdle will be persuading the Supreme Court justices not to apply strict scrutiny because Proposal 2 does not carry any racially discriminatory effect against a protected class like race or gender, but instead for fairness and just treatment across the board.
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (CDAA)’s main counter-argument is that Proposal 2 violates the Equal Protection clause by prohibiting minorities from gaining admission to public universities through affirmative action because that is the only practical way qualified minorities may attend at those public universities. CDAA relies upon the 1969 Supreme Court case Hunter v. Erickson, where the Court held “a local majority [voters] cannot impose special burdens on racial minorities who are fighting for lawful measures to reduce racial discrimination…” Moreover, CDAA contends that Proposal 2 places two million minorities, mostly Black and Latino citizens, in a significant disadvantage where using their race benefits them in the application process. Further, CDAA argues that Proposal 2 would eliminate the possibility for universities to consider cultural biases in standardized testing, which traditionally minorities have scored low.
This is one of the more intriguing Supreme Court cases of the 2013 docket, which will have a tremendous impact on millions of people across Michigan and the United States. On one hand, the two million plus voters that approved of Proposal 2 who believe in removing race as an admission factor for public universities for fairness to non-minority applicants. On the other, millions of minorities in Michigan who benefit from using their race as an admission factor to attend top public universities like Michigan State University and University of Michigan. Whichever way the Court swings, this decision will make a significant impact on your future.
By: Fahd Haque, Law Clerk for Moss & Colella, P.C.
If you have any comments, email Fahd Haque at email@example.com .