Michigan’s ban on using race and gender as a factor in admission to public colleges and universities was overturned today by a federal appeals court, which said the voter-approved measure harms minorities and is unconstitutional.
The 2-1 decision struck down Proposal 2, the 2006 law that had forced the University of Michigan and other state schools to revise their admission policies. The judges ruled that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
“Proposal 2 reorders the political process in Michigan to place special burdens on minority interests,” judges R. Guy Cole Jr. and Martha Craig Daughtrey said.
The ban, passed with 58 percent of the vote nearly five years ago, affected government hiring as well as college admissions.
George Washington, the chief attorney for the law’s opponents, applauded the decision today.
“It’s a great victory. It means affirmative action is legal again in college admissions. It means that thousands of talented black, Latino and Native Americans can go to our public universities,” Washington said.
However, the ruling could be appealed, Washington said, to the U.S. Supreme Court or the entire panel of the 6th Circuit Appeals Court.
Ward Connerly, a former University of California regent who was a major backer of Proposal 2 and California’s similar Proposition 209, said the ruling means the people have no right to govern their own institutions.
“It’s saying the people have no right to insist that everyone be treated equality. It places the ultimate decision in the hands of the university–that they are supreme ones,” Connerly said by phone from California. “It’s a terrible, terrible decision that will not stand.”
Opponents of Proposal 2 blamed the measure for declines in the percentage of minorities in U-M’s freshman classes in the years immediately after the ruling.
The activist group By Any Means Necessary, which pursued the lawsuit to overturn Proposal 2, scheduled news conferences at 2 p.m. at the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor and 4 p.m. at 645 Griswold in Detroit to discuss the ruling. The Detroit Branch of the NAACP also scheduled a news conference at 3:30 p.m. to address the decision.