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Federal appeals court strikes down Michigan affirmative action ban

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Update 4:03 p.m.

A full panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Michigan's constitutional ban on affirmative action does not hold up under the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause (14th amendment).

Last year's Sixth Circuit ruling was 2-1. An appeal was made to a full panel of judges.

Today's ruling striking the ban down was 8-7.

The court ruled that the method by which the ban was put in place, a state constitutional amendment, changes the political process in such a way that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution (in the 14th amendment).

That clause says "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The court essentially said it puts an undue burden on citizens who would want to change the law.

In order to change it, they would have to pass another state constitutional amendment.

Anyone else who would want to change something about college admission policies would have many easier ways to change them. They could attempt to changes policies at the university level, or lobby their state representatives to pass a new law.

If the ban on using race or gender in university admissions had been passed into law by state legislators, the court would likely not find the ban unconstitutional.

3:53 p.m.

After today's federal appeals court ruling striking down Michigan's ban on affirmative action (known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, or MCRI), Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced he will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

From Schuette's statement:

"MCRI embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law," said Schuette. "Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit. We are prepared to take the fight for quality, fairness and the rule of law to the U.S. Supreme Court." Schuette will file a petition of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court within 90 days.

3:32 p.m.

You might be asking, "didn't the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rule on Michigan's ban on affirmative action last year?"

Good memory! Yes they did!

But it was a three-panel ruling from the Sixth Circuit.

Today's ruling is from the full panel of judges of the Sixth Circuit.

2:42 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) - A federal appeals court has thrown out Michigan's voter-approved ban on affirmative action in college admissions and public hiring.

The court says the 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution is illegal because it presents an extraordinary burden to opponents who would have to mount their own long, expensive campaign to protect affirmative action.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Thursday that the burden undermines a federal right that all citizens "have equal access to the tools of political change."

Michigan voters amended the constitution to ban the consideration of race in college admissions and government hiring. It forced the University of Michigan and other public schools to change policies.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.