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Supreme Court upholds Michigan's ban on affirmative action

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that citizens can legally nix affirmative action at the ballot box, thus upholding Michigan's voter-approved referendum banning the practice in college admissions.

By a vote of 6-2 (Justic Elena Kagan was recused), the court ruled that voters can alter their state constitutions to end affirmative action, as Michigan did via referendum in 2006. The court stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutional merits of affirmative action itself, but rather solely on the power of citizens to rewrite their state laws through the proper legal channels.

Here's the relevant bit, from Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion:

This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court's precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters. Deliberative debate on sensitive issues such as racial preferences all too often may shade into rancor. But that does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the voters' reach. Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate. [Supreme Court]

The case arose after the high court in 2003 ruled that Michigan's affirmative action program was constitutional. Following that ruling, affirmative action opponents launched a successful referendum to amend the state constitution to ban it statewide in higher education.