AALDEF Statement: SCOTUS Grants Cert in Michigan Affirmative Action Case

Monday, Mar 25, 2013

Affirmative action Wikimedia.jpgAs the country awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Court has decided to take up another case implicating the use of affirmative action in college admissions, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case presents a different, but equally important issue in the ongoing debate about the use of affirmative action policies: whether or not the State of Michigan can use a ballot measure to alter its constitution so as to deny some of its citizens the equal opportunity even to advocate for the use of affirmative action, let alone implement it. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) already joined the Equal Justice Society among other civil rights organizations in filing an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to strike down Michigan's Proposal 2 as unconstitutional, which it did in November of 2012.

"Affirmative action is an issue that minorities have long advocated for, and Proposal 2 destroys minorities' and women's ability even to advocate for their interests without seeking yet another constitutional amendment," said Khin Mai Aung, Director of AALDEF's Educational Equity Program. "Proposal 2 is another in a long line of unconstitutional laws that have cut people of color out of the political process. A state constitution, under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, cannot impose barriers that burden only the political participation of minorities."

Michigan's Proposal 2 was passed in response to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that held that the University of Michigan could foster a diverse student body through its admissions process. Jennifer Gratz, the lead plaintiff in one of the University of Michigan Supreme Court cases, then led a campaign to amend the state constitution to prevent the state government from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public universities and government hiring.

AALDEF advocated that Michigan's Proposal 2 was unconstitutional because it was solely focused on silencing the voices of affirmative action advocates, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Moreover, when Proposal 2 was originally introduced, AALDEF collaborated with a broad coalition of local community partners in Michigan, and released a 2006 report that focused on the false concept that Asian Americans are disadvantaged by affirmative action because they are a "model minority." For example, compared to white households in 2006, Bangladeshi American households earned 14.3 percent less, Hmong American households earned 19.3 percent less, and Korean American households earned 24.7 percent less.

The continuing constitutional challenge to Proposal 2 is not about the need for affirmative action, but the fact that placing such a ban in Michigan's constitution imposes an unfairly high bar on minorities advocating for their rights. For example, students advocating for legacy considerations in the admissions process have a range of options in the political process, while students advocating for affirmative action only have only one extremely arduous option: to seek a constitutional amendment.

"As the Sixth Circuit has clearly held, Proposal 2 is discriminatory and unconstitutional. While the Supreme Court considers this case, we will continue in our efforts to fight for its repeal," said Aung. "We cannot allow measures like this one to silence our voices from the political process, especially when our interests are the ones at stake."

Ujala Sehgal
212.966.5932 ex.217



May 5: Presentation on DOJ's racial profiling of Chinese American scientists


Texas County and AALDEF settle federal voting rights lawsuit on language assistance


AALDEF exit poll results: Chinatown voters support Clinton, Trump in NY presidential primaries


March 28: Race Relations and Collaboration After the Peter Liang Case, NYC Bar Association


March 15: Panel on Human Rights, Trafficking & Economic Empowerment


AALDEF joins 325 groups urging Supreme Court to allow executive actions on immigration to proceed


March 9: Panel on Voting Rights in an Election Year for Communities of Color


AALDEF joins 80+ groups urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to take action on U.S. Supreme Court nominee


AALDEF praises NYS Board of Regents decision to remove obstacles to professional licenses for non-citizens


Feb. 27: AALDEF legal rights workshop on immigration, DACA


Asian delivery workers sue Manhattan sushi restaurant for back wages, overtime pay


Texas federal court rules that AALDEF voting rights lawsuit may proceed


AALDEF joins 220+ groups asking Supreme Court to protect Obama's immigration actions


FAQs on Asian Americans and Fisher v. UT-Austin


160+ AAPI groups file amicus briefs in support of affirmative action in Fisher v. UT-Austin