The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Full Appeals Court Hears Arguments Challenging Michigan’s Ban on Equal Opportunity

April 12, 2012 - Posted by Cedric Lawson

In Cincinnati, attorneys representing a wide range of groups including students, faculty and prospective applicants asked a 15-judge federal appeals court panel to uphold an earlier ruling that struck down Michigan’s ban on equal opportunity programs in public higher education, employment, and contracting.

In July 2011, a three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down (2-1) the Michigan law, also known as Proposal 2. The court had ruled that the ban changed the political process in Michigan to such a degree that it puts “special burdens on minority interests,” which violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. However, the state of Michigan appealed the ruling and requested an en banc hearing of all the judges who serve on the the 6th Circuit.

“It’s not about leveling the playing field; it’s about getting on the playing field,” said Dennis Parker, director of the National ACLU Racial Justice Program. “This is about allowing all individuals to have a voice in the admissions process.”

In 2006, Michigan passed a ballot initiative, Proposal 2, amending its state constitution to ban some equal opportunity programs. Following its passage, a coalition of civil rights organizations that includes the ACLU of Michigan, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The leading proponent of these anti-equal opportunity ballot initiatives is Ward Connerly, a California businessman and former University of California regent, who has shopped similar initiatives in states around the country for over a decade. Connerly-sponsored initiatives have passed in four other states – California (1996), Washington (1998), Nebraska (2008), and Arizona (2010).  Colorado is the only state where, in 2008, voters rejected a Connerly anti-equal opportunity measure.

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