Today the US supreme court upheld Michigan’s law that bans affirmative action. The Justices said that Michigan voters have the right to change their state constitution to prevent colleges from using race as a factor in admissions. The crux of this decision was made, not on the merits or demerits of affirmative action, but on whether voters have the right to determine such matters.
“a) This case is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Here, the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible 2 SCHUETTE v. BAMN when certain conditions are met is not being challenged. Rather, the question concerns whether, and in what manner, voters in the States may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences. Where States have prohibited race-conscious admissions policies, universities have responded by experimenting “with a wide variety of alternative approaches.” Grutter, supra, at 342. The decision by Michigan voters reflects the ongoing national dialogue about such practices. Pp. 4–5.” [Bold mine]
“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.” According to the Court, although the issue of race is sensitive and often shaded with “rancor,” “that does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the voters’ reach. Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate.” 572 U.S. __(2014)
The justices found 6-2 that a lower court did not have the authority to set aside the measure approved in a 2006 referendum supported by 58% of voters.
Upon reading this, the questions raised is 1) why in this case do the voters merit such weighty consideration when voters and elected lawmakers are being challenged egregiously for laws that define marriage as being the legal union of a man and woman. 2) why are judges and state attorney generals removing same-sex marriage from the voters’ reach? Why are they setting aside voter measures in states all over the U.S.?
There appears to be a bias displayed by the higher court towards states on the issue of gender consideration in marriage as compared to the issue of race consideration in college admissions. State rights seem to be more respected for one and not the other.
Although this was a narrow ruling affecting Michigan, the expansion of the ruling into other states is almost guaranteed. The Supreme Court establishes precedent in the interpretation of laws. If this ruling stands (and it does) — judges and attorney generals must uphold the law as defined by a states’ constitutions – whether that law was placed there by legislation or voter referendum. As this relates to affirmative action, the people of Michigan spoke and the court had no right to discount what they wanted. The people also spoke in California, Texas, Virginia, Utah, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan, D.C., GA and a host of other states in defining marriage for their state. Yet, judges and attorney generals are ignoring the voice of the people repeatedly.
Perhaps the Supreme Court justices deserve the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are attempting to correct the wrong that has come about from their ruling in United States v. Windsor, where they alluded to state rights on gay marriage, but never definitively stated so. Maybe what appears to be a bias favorable toward a sexual minority, but unfavorable toward racial minorities will be addressed. Or maybe, just maybe, the highest court restored power where it rightfully belongs — with the states.