LOS ANGELES (April 22, 2014) — Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is deeply concerned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action upholding Proposal 2, a 2006 Michigan ballot initiative amending the state constitution to prohibit race-conscious college admissions policies.
The decision overturns the 2012 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which held that Proposal 2 impermissibly imposed heightened burdens on racial minorities advocating race-conscious admissions policies – burdens not shared by the majority.
As Justice Sotomayor pointed out in dissent: “The effect of [Proposal 2] is that a white graduate of a public Michigan university who wishes to pass his historical privilege on to his children may freely lobby the board of that university in favor of an expanded legacy admissions policy, whereas a black Michigander who was denied the opportunity to attend that very university cannot lobby the board in favor of a policy that might give his children a chance that he never had and that they might never have absent that policy.”
The plurality decision by Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, condones the entrenchment of this fundamentally unequal political system by disregarding the long-standing “political-process doctrine,” which prohibits the majority from creating a separate political process that makes it more difficult for racial minorities to enact beneficial legislation.
“The passage of Proposal 2 demonstrates that race still matters and that the courts are more necessary than ever to protect the rights of minorities,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – LA.
As Justice Sotomayor opined in dissent, “The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities. The political-process doctrine polices the channels of change to ensure that the majority, when it wins, does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success.”
Despite the disappointing and harmful decision by the Supreme Court today, it is important to note that the Court did not address the merits of race-conscious admissions, which are still constitutional under Fisher and Grutter. Advancing Justice – LA is committed to supporting race-conscious admissions policies and increasing access to higher education for all underrepresented and disadvantaged students.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles is the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA’s mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of the AANHPI community while also building a strong AANHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.