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On Michigan affirmative action case, Supreme Court makes the right call

The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action on Tuesday. The 6-2 decision, as The Times’ David Savage explains, “clears away constitutional challenges to the state bans on affirmative action, which began in California in 1996.”

From Savage’s article:

“Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the majority, said the democratic process can decide such issues. ‘This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,’ he said. ‘It is about who may resolve it. 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.’”

This is what The Times editorial board argued in October when it opined on the case:

“This case isn’t about whether state universities may provide preferential treatment in their admissions policies. Rather, the question is whether the voters of Michigan violated the U.S. Constitution when they amended the state Constitution to say that universities ‘shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.’ That is a much harder question. ....

“Beyond these specific legal arguments, the opponents of Michigan’s ban are seeking to set aside a state constitutional amendment that was approved by the voters. We don’t believe that ballot initiatives are sacrosanct. If they violate constitutional rights — as we believe Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage did — they should be struck down. But bans on racial preferences at state universities, in Michigan or in California — while bad policy — don’t violate the Constitution. They should be undone at the ballot box, not by the courts.”

Stay tuned: The editorial board will weigh in on SCOTUS’ decision in Wednesday’s Opinion pages.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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