Supreme Court Upholds Voter-Backed Affirmative Action Bans

By Julianne Hing Apr 22, 2014

In a 6-2 vote the Supreme Court upheld a ban on affirmative action passed by Michigan voters.  

"There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. 

The case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, did not actually concern the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies. Rather, the Supreme Court was tasked with settling the question of whether affirmative action bans passed by state ballot initiative are still unconstitutional. 

In her dissent Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, disagreed vehemently with the majority. "The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities."

The ruling comes as little surprise in an political and legal landscape increasingly hostile to race-conscious admissions policies, and will pave the way for more attacks on affirmative action. Read the Supreme Court opinion in full (PDF), and Colorlines’ Schuette primer for more.