BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, November 19, 2012
11/19/12 at 2:43 AM
A federal appeals court has knocked down Michigan's state constitutional ban on affirmative action in college admissions.
The 8-7 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals applies only to the states in the district, including Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, but it is of interest here because Oklahoma voters on Nov. 6 approved an amendment to their constitution that bans affirmative action in college admissions, state hiring and state contracting.
The appeals court, based in Cincinnati, did not address the merits of an affirmative action ban, but the way in which the ban was imposed. In its majority decision, the appeals court held that the 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution is illegal because it forces opponents to mount their own long, expensive campaign through the ballot box to protect affirmative action.
That "undermines the Equal Protection Clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change," the court held, adding that it would be more fair if proponents and opponents of affirmative action debated the issues through the governing board of each institution of higher learning.
The appeals court did not address a part of the Michigan amendment that bans affirmative action in state government hiring.
A very similar state constitutional amendment in California has been upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is likely the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually resolve the conflicting rulings.
But before that happens, it's likely that Oklahoma's affirmative action ban will be challenged in federal court here.