Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s state constitutional amendment barring racial preferences in university admissions and other public institutions might be the next major case dealing with affirmative action laws in the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today not to decide a Texas affirmative action case where a white student challenged the University of Texas’s admission policy that includes race as one of its deciding factors. 

The U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati will hear arguments tomorrow about Michigan's constitutional amendment barring state universities from considering an applicant’s race in college admissions.

Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved ‘proposition 2’ in 2006. The amendment bars state colleges and other publicly funded institutions from considering an applicant’s minority status.

Mark Rosenbaum is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says Prop 2 violates the U.S. Constitution by forbidding the consideration of race, while other factors like whether a college applicant’s parent is an alumnus, are still permitted.

“That’s un-American because it removes ‘racial identity’ from the vocabulary of a democracy," says Rosenbaum.  

Last year, a federal appellate court ruled against Prop 2.  Joy Yearout is with the Michigan Attorney General’s office.  She says the Attorney General finds a serious problem with that ruling.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals said that by banning racial discrimination it somehow perpetuates discrimination," says Yearout, "And if that sounds crazy to you, there’s a reason.  It just doesn’t make any sense.”

The case may eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.