Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement



feminist wire | daily newsbriefs


MI Affirmative Action Ban

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit voted 2-1 to strike down the anti-affirmative action provision of the Michigan Constitution. That provision, which was passed in a 2006 referendum, banned any preferences on the basis of ethnicity, sex, or race, particularly affecting admissions policies at state universities. This decision overturned Article I, Section 26 of the Michigan Constitution. Other states, including Arizona, California, Nebraska and Washington, have similar bans.

The 2006 referendum, also known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), was designed to "sound as if it advocated equal opportunity for minorities and women seeking public employment, public contracts or admission to public universities. In fact, it did away with programs created to support equal opportunity," as the Lansing State Journal described the initiative. Many reports on this ruling, and on the MCRI itself, fail to note that it also prohibits sex-based affirmative action, such as public school efforts to engage more girls in science and mathematics.

The passage of that referendum with 58 percent of the vote was an enormous loss for defenders of affirmative action, as well as for universities that are deeply impacted by the ban, like the University of Michigan. Following the referendum, the percentage of underrepresented minority students admitted to Michigan's freshman class dropped from 12.6 percent in the 2005 to 9.1 percent in 2008. In 2010, a class action lawsuit was filed against a similar California anti-affirmative action measure, Proposition 209, by the same Michigan-based group that brought the successful Michigan suit, arguing that the measure negatively affected the numbers of minority students, particularly at UCLA and Berkeley.

The dissenting judge and lone Republican appointee on the Sixth Circuit panel, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, noted that the referendum actually overturned a decision that had been made by academics (i.e. admissions policies), not a political decision. She stated "Michigan has chosen to structure its university system such that politics plays no part in university admissions at all levels within its constitutionally created universities. The Michigan voters have therefore not restructured the political process in their state by amending their state constitution; they have merely employed it."

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that he will appeal the ruling because "MCRI embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law. Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit, and I will continue the fight for equality, fairness and rule of law." Critics of affirmative action expect the decision to be overturned by the full Sixth Circuit, which contains a substantial majority of conservative judges.

Media Resources: Inside Higher Ed 7/5/2011; Office of the Attorney General 7/1/2011; National Review Online 7/1/2011; Feminist Daily Newswire 2/22/2010; Feminist Daily Newswire 12/5/1996; Courthouse News Service 2/19/2010

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.



Send to a Friend

More Feminist News

10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1. The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case. UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall. The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies. Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .