DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - A federal appeals court on Friday struck down Michigan's ban on the consideration of race and gender when enrolling students at public colleges, saying it burdens minorities and violates the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney General Bill Schuette said he will appeal the ruling. "Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit, and I will continue the fight for equality, fairness and rule of law," Schuette said.
The 2-1 decision upends a sweeping law that was approved by voters in 2006 and had forced the University of Michigan and others to change admission policies. The court said it violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
It focused its argument mostly on the fact that Michigan's voter-approved ban is in the Constitution, making a repeal extremely difficult.
"Proposal 2 reorders the political process in Michigan to place special burdens on minority interests," judges R. Guy Cole Jr. and Martha Craig Daughtrey said.
The ban was placed in the Michigan Constitution after getting 58 percent of the vote nearly five years ago. It affected government hiring as well as college admissions.
In 2008, a federal judge in Detroit upheld the law, saying it was race-neutral because no single race can benefit.
Tim O'Brian, campaign manager for the Michigan Civil Rights Iniative who spearheaded the effort to get the initiative before voters, says the battle is not over.
"I'm absolutely 100 percent convinced it's going to the U.S. Supreme court, and I'm about 95 percent convinced the Supreme Court is going to reverse the Court of Appeals because they're wrong," O'Brian told WWJ Newsradio 950.
The Rev. Wendal Anthony, president of the NAACP said he welcomed the court's ruling.
"The strength of America lies in its diversification of its people. And, so, I just hope that people will see that and will recognize that this does not hurt us. This enhances us," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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