In 2006, Michigan voters amended their constitution to prohibit state and local governmental entities from considering race, or granting race-based preferences, in a wide range of actions and decisions, including admissions to state universities, as well as “the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban does not violate the U.S. Constitution as applied to public university admissions. Despite the breadth of Michigan’s constitutional amendment, the Court’s opinion was expressly limited to university admissions.
Notably, the Court was careful to point out the case was not about the constitutionality of considering race in university admissions when certain conditions are met. As held in the 2003 Grutter case involving the University of Michigan’s law school, such consideration is permissible when race is only one factor and race is considered in order to remedy past discrimination. Rather, the question before the Court was whether, although permissible, voters can ban such racial preferences by their government.
The implications of the Court’s ruling may prove to be significant in many areas, including minority and female business contracting preferences. Stay tuned for more analysis.