CINCINNATI - Opponents of a Michigan law that bans affirmative action in government hiring and university admissions told a federal appeals court Tuesday that the law strips minorities of their constitutional rights.
The challenge to the law, which is before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, could lead to a Supreme Court battle over similar laws in several other states where voters have approved bans on racial and gender preferences.
Supporters of the Michigan law, also known as Proposal 2, say it protects everyone by eliminating race and gender from consideration.
"We are dealing with equal treatment," said Margaret Nelson, an assistant attorney general in Michigan. "We are dealing with a proposal that takes race, sex and national origin out of the equation."
But attorneys for students and others who sued to overturn the law say the measure bars minorities from even suggesting racial diversity is a factor worth considering in public institutions and college admissions.
Such a ban is significant, they say, because the Supreme Court has ruled that considering such factors is permitted as long as there is no quota system and as long as it is done as part of a "holistic approach" that also takes other factors into account.