Last week, in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Regents of University of Michigan, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down an amendment to the Michigan constitution that prohibited the state’s public colleges and universities from granting “preferential treatment [to] any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” The amendment was the result of a successful voter initiative, known as Proposal 2. In striking down the amendment, the appeals court held that “Proposal 2 unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.”
Proposal 2, also misleadingly known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, was passed by 58 percent of Michigan voters in November 2006 and became law in December of that year. Among its notable supporters were Jennifer Gratz, plaintiff in the 2003 case Gratz v. Bollinger (where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students could not be given “extra points” in admissions decisions on the basis of race); Barbara Grutter, plaintiff in the Grutter v. Bollinger case of the same year (where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of race as a “factor” in the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions decisions); and Ward Connerly, a former Regent of the University of California who was instrumental in the passage of Proposition 209, California’s own successful anti-affirmative action initiative of 1996.
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