SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
BILL SCHUETTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN v. COALITION TO DEFEND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
April 22, 2014
Justice Kennedy announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which The Chief Justice and Justice Alito join.
The Court in this case must determine whether an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Michigan, approved and enacted by its voters, is invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
In 2003 the Court reviewed the
constitutionality of two admissions systems at the
University of Michigan, one for its undergraduate class
and one for its law school. The undergraduate admissions
plan was addressed in Gratz v. Bollinger,
539 U. S. 244. The law
school admission plan was addressed in Grutter
v. Bollinger, 539 U. S.
306. Each admissions process permitted the
explicit consideration of an applicant’s race. In Gratz,
the Court invalidated the undergraduate plan as a
violation of the Equal Protection Clause. In Grutter,
the Court found no constitutional flaw in the law school
admission plan’s more limited use of race-based
In response to the Court’s decision in Gratz, the university revised its undergraduate admissions process, but the revision still allowed limited use of race-based preferences. After a statewide debate on the question of racial preferences in the context of governmental decisionmaking, the voters, in 2006, adopted an amendment to the State Constitution prohibiting state and other governmental entities in Michigan from granting certain preferences, including race-based preferences, in a wide range of actions and decisions. Under the terms of the amendment, race-based preferences cannot be part of the admissions process for state universities. That particular prohibition is central to the instant case.
The ballot proposal was called Proposal 2 and, after it passed by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, the resulting enactment became Article I, §26, of the Michigan Constitution. As noted, the amendment is in broad terms. Section 26 states, in relevant part, as follows:
“(1) The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
“(2) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
“(3) For the purposes of this section ‘state’ includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the state itself, any city, county, any public college, university, or community college, school district, or other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State of Michigan not included in sub-section 1.”
Section 26 was challenged in two
cases. Among the plaintiffs in the suits were the
Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and
Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means
Necessary (BAMN); students; faculty; and prospective
applicants to Michigan public universities....
Before the Court addresses the question presented, it is important to note what this case is not about. It is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. The consideration of race in admissions presents complex questions, in part addressed last Term in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In Fisher, the Court did not disturb the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible, provided that certain conditions are met. In this case, as in Fisher, that principle is not challenged. The question here concerns not the permissibility of race-conscious admissions policies under the Constitution but whether, and in what manner, voters in the States may choose to prohibit the consideration of racial preferences in governmental decisions, in particular with respect to school admissions.
This Court has noted that some States have decided to prohibit race-conscious admissions policies. In Grutter, the Court noted: “Universities in California, Florida, and Washington State, where racial preferences in admissions are prohibited by state law, are currently engaged in experimenting with a wide variety of alternative approaches. Universities in other States can and should draw on the most promising aspects of these race-neutral alternatives as they develop.” In this way, Grutter acknowledged the significance of a dialogue regarding this contested and complex policy question among and within States. There was recognition that our federal structure “permits ‘ innovation and experimentation’ ” and “enables greater citizen ‘ involvement in democratic processes.’ ” While this case arises in Michigan, the decision by the State’s voters reflects in part the national dialogue regarding the wisdom and practicality of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education....
In holding §26 invalid in the context of student admissions at state universities, the Court of Appeals relied in primary part on Seattle, supra, which it deemed to control the case. But that determination extends Seattle’s holding in a case presenting quite different issues to reach a conclusion that is mistaken here. Before explaining this further, it is necessary to consider the relevant cases that preceded Seattle and the background against which Seattle itself arose.
Though it has not been prominent in the arguments of the parties, this Court’s decision in Reitman v. Mulkey, 387 U. S. 369 (1967), is a proper beginning point for discussing the controlling decisions. In Mulkey, voters amended the California Constitution to prohibit any state legislative interference with an owner’s prerogative to decline to sell or rent residential property on any basis. Two different cases gave rise to Mulkey. In one a couple could not rent an apartment, and in the other a couple were evicted from their apartment. Those adverse actions were on account of race. In both cases the complaining parties were barred, on account of race, from invoking the protection of California’s statutes; and, as a result, they were unable to lease residential property. This Court concluded that the state constitutional provision was a denial of equal protection. The Court agreed with the California Supreme Court that the amendment operated to insinuate the State into the decision to discriminate by encouraging that practice. The Court noted the “immediate design and intent” of the amendment was to “establish a purported constitutional right to privately discriminate.” The Court agreed that the amendment “expressly authorized and constitutionalized the private right to discriminate.” The effect of the state constitutional amendment was to “significantly encourage and involve the State in private racial discriminations.” In a dissent joined by three other Justices, Justice Harlan disagreed with the majority’s holding. The dissent reasoned that California, by the action of its voters, simply wanted the State to remain neutral in this area, so that the State was not a party to discrimination. That dissenting voice did not prevail against the majority’s conclusion that the state action in question encouraged discrimination, causing real and specific injury.
The next precedent of relevance, Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U. S. 385 (1969) , is central to the arguments the respondents make in the instant case. In Hunter, the Court for the first time elaborated what the Court of Appeals here styled the “political process” doctrine. There, the Akron City Council found that the citizens of Akron consisted of “ ‘people of different race[s], . . . many of whom live in circumscribed and segregated areas, under sub-standard unhealthful, unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, because of discrimination in the sale, lease, rental and financing of housing.’ ” Id., at 391. To address the problem, Akron enacted a fair housing ordinance to prohibit that sort of discrimination. In response, voters amended the city charter to overturn the ordinance and to require that any additional antidiscrimination housing ordinance be approved by referendum. But most other ordinances “regulating the real property market” were not subject to those threshold requirements. Id., at 390. The plaintiff, a black woman in Akron, Ohio, alleged that her real estate agent could not show her certain residences because the owners had specified they would not sell to black persons.
Central to the Court’s reasoning in Hunter was that the charter amendment was enacted in circumstances where widespread racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing led to segregated housing, forcing many to live in “ ‘unhealthful, unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.’ ” The Court stated: “It is against this background that the referendum required by [the charter amendment] must be assessed.” Akron attempted to characterize the charter amendment “simply as a public decision to move slowly in the delicate area of race relations” and as a means “to allow the people of Akron to participate” in the decision. The Court rejected Akron’s flawed “justifications for its discrimination,”justifications that by their own terms had the effect of acknowledging the targeted nature of the charter amendment. The Court noted, furthermore, that the charter amendment was unnecessary as a general means of public control over the city council; for the people of Akron already were empowered to overturn ordinances by referendum. The Court found that the city charter amendment, by singling out antidiscrimination ordinances, “places special burden on racial minorities within the governmental process,” thus becoming as impermissible as any other government action taken with the invidious intent to injure a racial minority. Justice Harlan filed a concurrence. He argued the city charter amendment “has the clear purpose of making it more difficult for certain racial and religious minorities to achieve legislation that is in their interest.” But without regard to the sentence just quoted, Hunter rests on the unremarkable principle that the State may not alter the procedures of government to target racial minorities. The facts in Hunter established that invidious discrimination would be the necessary result of the procedural restructuring. Thus, in Mulkey and Hunter, there was a demonstrated injury on the basis of race that, by reasons of state encouragement or participation, became more aggravated.
Seattle is the third case of principal relevance here. There, the school board adopted a mandatory busing program to alleviate racial isolation of minority students in local schools. Voters who opposed the school board’s busing plan passed a state initiative that barred busing to desegregate. The Court first determined that, although “white as well as Negro children benefit from” diversity, the school board’s plan “inures primarily to the benefit of the minority.” 458 U. S., at 472. The Court next found that “the practical effect” of the state initiative was to “remov[e] the authority to address a racial problem—and only a racial problem—from the existing decisionmaking body, in such a way as to burden minority interests” because advocates of busing “now must seek relief from the state legislature, or from the statewide electorate.” Id., at 474. The Court therefore found that the initiative had “explicitly us[ed] the racial nature of a decision to determine the decisionmaking process.” Id., at 470 (emphasis deleted).
Seattle is best understood
as a case in which the state action in question (the bar
on busing enacted by the State’s voters) had the serious
risk, if not purpose, of causing specific injuries on
account of race, just as had been the case in Mulkey
and Hunter. Although there had been no
judicial finding of de jure segregation with
respect to Seattle’s school district, it appears as
though school segregation in the district in the 1940’s
and 1950’s may have been the partial result of school
board policies that “permitted white students to
transfer out of black schools while restricting the
transfer of black students into white schools.” Parents
Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle
School Dist. No. 1 (2007). In 1977, the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) filed a complaint with the Office for Civil
Rights, a federal agency. The NAACP alleged that the
school board had maintained a system of de jure
segregation. Specifically, the complaint alleged “that
the Seattle School Board had created or perpetuated
unlawful racial segregation through, e.g., certain
school-transfer criteria, a construction program that
needlessly built new schools in white areas, district
line-drawing criteria, the maintenance of inferior
facilities at black schools, the use of explicit racial
criteria in the assignment of teachers and other staff,
and a general pattern of delay in respect to the
implementation of promised desegregation efforts.”
As part of a settlement with the Office for Civil
Rights, the school board implemented the “Seattle Plan,”
which used busing and mandatory reassignments between
elementary schools to reduce racial imbalance and which
was the subject of the state initiative at issue in Seattle....
The Seattle Court, accepting the validity of the school board’s busing remedy as a predicate to its analysis of the constitutional question, found that the State’s disapproval of the school board’s busing remedy was an aggravation of the very racial injury in which the State itself was complicit. The broad language used in Seattle, however, went well beyond the analysis needed to resolve the case. The Court there seized upon the statement in Justice Harlan’s concurrence in Hunter that the procedural change in that case had “the clear purpose of making it more difficult for certain racial and religious minorities to achieve legislation that is in their interest.” That language, taken in the context of the facts in Hunter, is best read simply to describe the necessity for finding an equal protection violation where specific injuries from hostile discrimination were at issue. The Seattle Court, however, used the language from the Hunter concurrence to establish a new and far-reaching rationale. Seattle stated that where a government policy “inures primarily to the benefit of the minority” and “minorities . . . consider” the policy to be “ ‘in their interest,’ ” then any state action that “place[s] effective decisionmaking authority over” that policy “at a different level of government” must be reviewed under strict scrutiny. In essence, according to the broad reading of Seattle, any state action with a “racial focus” that makes it “more difficult for certain racial minorities than for other groups” to “achieve legislation that is in their interest” is subject to strict scrutiny. It is this reading of Seattle that the Court of Appeals found to be controlling here. And that reading must be rejected.
The broad rationale that the Court of Appeals adopted goes beyond the necessary holding and the meaning of the precedents said to support it; and in the instant case neither the formulation of the general rule just set forth nor the precedents cited to authenticate it suffice to invalidate Proposal 2. The expansive reading of Seattle has no principled limitation and raises serious questions of compatibility with the Court’s settled equal protection jurisprudence. To the extent Seattle is read to require the Court to determine and declare which political policies serve the “interest” of a group defined in racial terms, that rationale was unnecessary to the decision in Seattle; it has no support in precedent; and it raises serious constitutional concerns. That expansive language does not provide a proper guide for decisions and should not be deemed authoritative or controlling. The rule that the Court of Appeals elaborated and respondents seek to establish here would contradict central equal protection principles.
In cautioning against “impermissible racial stereotypes,” this Court has rejected the assumption that “members of the same racial group—regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live—think alike, share the same political interests, and will prefer the same candidates at the polls.” It cannot be entertained as a serious proposition that all individuals of the same race think alike. Yet that proposition would be a necessary beginning point were the Seattle formulation to control, as the Court of Appeals held it did in this case. And if it were deemed necessary to probe how some races define their own interest in political matters, still another beginning point would be to define individuals according to race. But in a society in which those lines are becoming more blurred, the attempt to define race-based categories also raises serious questions of its own. Government action that classifies individuals on the basis of race is inherently suspect and carries the danger of perpetuating the very racial divisions the polity seeks to transcend. Were courts to embark upon this venture not only would it be undertaken with no clear legal standards or accepted sources to guide judicial decision but also it would result in, or at least impose a high risk of, inquiries and categories dependent upon demeaning stereotypes, classifications of questionable constitutionality on their own terms.
Even assuming these initial steps could be taken in a manner consistent with a sound analytic and judicial framework, the court would next be required to determine the policy realms in which certain groups—groups defined by race—have a political interest. That undertaking, again without guidance from any accepted legal standards, would risk, in turn, the creation of incentives for those who support or oppose certain policies to cast the debate in terms of racial advantage or disadvantage. Thus could racial antagonisms and conflict tend to arise in the context of judicial decisions as courts undertook to announce what particular issues of public policy should be classified as advantageous to some group defined by race. This risk is inherent in adopting the Seattle formulation.
There would be no apparent limiting standards defining what public policies should be included in what Seattle called policies that “inure primarily to the benefit of the minority” and that “minorities . . . consider” to be “ ‘in their interest.’ ” Those who seek to represent the interests of particular racial groups could attempt to advance those aims by demanding an equal protection ruling that any number of matters be foreclosed from voter review or participation. In a nation in which governmental policies are wide ranging, those who seek to limit voter participation might be tempted, were this Court to adopt the Seattle formulation, to urge that a group they choose to define by race or racial stereotypes are advantaged or disadvantaged by any number of laws or decisions. Tax policy, housing subsidies, wage regulations, and even the naming of public schools, highways, and monuments are just a few examples of what could become a list of subjects that some organizations could insist should be beyond the power of voters to decide, or beyond the power of a legislature to decide when enacting limits on the power of local authorities or other governmental entities to address certain subjects. Racial division would be validated, not discouraged, were the Seattle formulation, and the reasoning of the Court of Appeals in this case, to remain in force.
Perhaps, when enacting policies as an exercise of democratic self-government, voters will determine that race-based preferences should be adopted. The constitutional validity of some of those choices regarding racial preferences is not at issue here. The holding in the instant case is simply that the courts may not disempower the voters from choosing which path to follow. In the realm of policy discussions the regular give-and-take of debate ought to be a context in which rancor or discord based on race are avoided, not invited. And if these factors are to be interjected, surely it ought not to be at the invitation or insistence of the courts.
One response to these concerns may be that objections to the larger consequences of the Seattle formulation need not be confronted in this case, for here race was an undoubted subject of the ballot issue. But a number of problems raised by Seattle, such as racial definitions, still apply. And this principal flaw in the ruling of the Court of Appeals does remain: Here there was no infliction of a specific injury of the kind at issue in Mulkey and Hunter and in the history of the Seattle schools. Here there is no precedent for extending these cases to restrict the right of Michigan voters to determine that race-based preferences granted by Michigan governmental entities should be ended.
It should also be noted that the judgment of the Court of Appeals in this case of necessity calls into question other long-settled rulings on similar state policies. The California Supreme Court has held that a California constitutional amendment prohibiting racial preferences in public contracting does not violate the rule set down by Seattle. Coral Constr., Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco, 50 Cal. 4th 315, 235 P. 3d 947 (2010). The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that the same amendment, which also barred racial preferences in public education, does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. Wilson, 122 F. 3d 692 (1997). If the Court were to affirm the essential rationale of the Court of Appeals in the instant case, those holdings would be invalidated, or at least would be put in serious question. The Court, by affirming the judgment now before it, in essence would announce a finding that the past 15 years of state public debate on this issue have been improper. And were the argument made that Coral might still stand because it involved racial preferences in public contracting while this case concerns racial preferences in university admissions, the implication would be that the constitutionality of laws forbidding racial preferences depends on the policy interest at stake, the concern that, as already explained, the voters deem it wise to avoid because of its divisive potential. The instant case presents the question involved in Coral and Wilson but not involved in Mulkey, Hunter, and Seattle. That question is not how to address or prevent injury caused on account of race but whether voters may determine whether a policy of race-based preferences should be continued.
By approving Proposal 2 and thereby adding §26 to their State Constitution, the Michigan voters exercised their privilege to enact laws as a basic exercise of their democratic power. In the federal system States “respond, through the enactment of positive law, to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own times.” Michigan voters used the initiative system to bypass public officials who were deemed not responsive to the concerns of a majority of the voters with respect to a policy of granting race-based preferences that raises difficult and delicate issues.
The freedom secured by the Constitution consists, in one of its essential dimensions, of the right of the individual not to be injured by the unlawful exercise of governmental power. The mandate for segregated schools, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954) ; a wrongful invasion of the home, Silverman v. United States, 365 U. S. 505 (1961) ; or punishing a protester whose views offend others, Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397 (1989) ; and scores of other examples teach that individual liberty has constitutional protection, and that liberty’s full extent and meaning may remain yet to be discovered and affirmed. Yet freedom does not stop with individual rights. Our constitutional system embraces, too, the right of citizens to debate so they can learn and decide and then, through the political process, act in concert to try to shape the course of their own times and the course of a nation that must strive always to make freedom ever greater and more secure. Here Michigan voters acted in concert and statewide to seek consensus and adopt a policy on a difficult subject against a historical background of race in America that has been a source of tragedy and persisting injustice. That history demands that we continue to learn, to listen, and to remain open to new approaches if we are to aspire always to a constitutional order in which all persons are treated with fairness and equal dignity. Were the Court to rule that the question addressed by Michigan voters is too sensitive or complex to be within the grasp of the electorate; or that the policies at issue remain too delicate to be resolved save by university officials or faculties, acting at some remove from immediate public scrutiny and control; or that these matters are so arcane that the electorate’s power must be limited because the people cannot prudently exercise that power even after a full debate, that holding would be an unprecedented restriction on the exercise of a fundamental right held not just by one person but by all in common. It is the right to speak and debate and learn and then, as a matter of political will, to act through a lawful electoral process.
The respondents in this case insist that a difficult question of public policy must be taken from the reach of the voters, and thus removed from the realm of public discussion, dialogue, and debate in an election campaign. Quite in addition to the serious First Amendment implications of that position with respect to any particular election, it is inconsistent with the underlying premises of a responsible, functioning democracy. One of those premises is that a democracy has the capacity—and the duty—to learn from its past mistakes; to discover and confront persisting biases; and by respectful, rationale deliberation to rise above those flaws and injustices. That process is impeded, not advanced, by court decrees based on the proposition that the public cannot have the requisite repose to discuss certain issues. It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds. The process of public discourse and political debate should not be foreclosed even if there is a risk that during a public campaign there will be those, on both sides, who seek to use racial division and discord to their own political advantage. An informed public can, and must, rise above this. The idea of democracy is that it can, and must, mature. Freedom embraces the right, indeed the duty, to engage in a rational, civic discourse in order to determine how best to form a consensus to shape the destiny of the Nation and its people. These First Amendment dynamics would be disserved if this Court were to say that the question here at issue is beyond the capacity of the voters to debate and then to determine.
These precepts are not inconsistent with the well-established principle that when hurt or injury is inflicted on racial minorities by the encouragement or command of laws or other state action, the Constitution requires redress by the courts. As already noted, those were the circumstances that the Court found present in Mulkey, Hunter, and Seattle. But those circumstances are not present here.
For reasons already discussed, Mulkey, Hunter, and Seattle are not precedents that stand for the conclusion that Michigan’s voters must be disempowered from acting. Those cases were ones in which the political restriction in question was designed to be used, or was likely to be used, to encourage infliction of injury by reason of race. What is at stake here is not whether injury will be inflicted but whether government can be instructed not to follow a course that entails, first, the definition of racial categories and, second, the grant of favored status to persons in some racial categories and not others. The electorate’s instruction to governmental entities not to embark upon the course of race-defined and race-based preferences was adopted, we must assume, because the voters deemed a preference system to be unwise, on account of what voters may deem its latent potential to become itself a source of the very resentments and hostilities based on race that this Nation seeks to put behind it. Whether those adverse results would follow is, and should be, the subject of debate. Voters might likewise consider, after debate and reflection, that programs designed to increase diversity—consistent with the Constitution—are a necessary part of progress to transcend the stigma of past racism.
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. See Sailors v. Board of Ed. of County of Kent, 387 U. S. 105, 109 (1967) (“Save and unless the state, county, or municipal government runs afoul of a federally protected right, it has vast leeway in the management of its internal affairs”). 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.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.
Kagan took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.
Justice Scalia, with whom Justice Thomas joins, concurring in the judgment.
It has come to this. Called upon to explore the jurisprudential twilight zone between two errant lines of precedent, we confront a frighteningly bizarre question: Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbid what its text plainly requires? Needless to say (except that this case obliges us to say it), the question answers itself. “The Constitution proscribes government discrimination on the basis of race, and state-provided education is no exception.” It is precisely this understanding—the correct understanding—of the federal Equal Protection Clause that the people of the State of Michigan have adopted for their own fundamental law. By adopting it, they did not simultaneously offend it.Even taking this Court’s sorry line of race-based-admissions cases as a given, I find the question presented only slightly less strange: Does the Equal Protection Clause forbid a State from banning a practice that the Clause barely—and only provisionally—permits?...
Justice Sotomayor, with whom Justice Ginsburg joins, dissenting.
We are fortunate to live in a democratic society. But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups. For that reason, our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do. This case implicates one such limit: the guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Although that guarantee is traditionally understood to prohibit intentional discrimination under existing laws, equal protection does not end there. Another fundamental strand of our equal protection jurisprudence focuses on process, securing to all citizens the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government. That right is the bedrock of our democracy, for it preserves all other rights.
Yet to know the history of our Nation is to understand its long and lamentable record of stymieing the right of racial minorities to participate in the political process. At first, the majority acted with an open, invidious purpose. Notwithstanding the command of the Fifteenth Amendment, certain States shut racial minorities out of the political process altogether by withholding the right to vote. This Court intervened to preserve that right. The majority tried again, replacing outright bans on voting with literacy tests, good character requirements, poll taxes, and gerrymandering. The Court was not fooled; it invalidated those measures, too. The majority persisted. This time, although it allowed the minority access to the political process, the majority changed the ground rules of the process so as to make it more difficult for the minority, and the minority alone, to obtain policies designed to foster racial integration. Although these political restructurings may not have been discriminatory in purpose, the Court reaffirmed the right of minority members of our society to participate meaningfully and equally in the political process....
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. Today, the Court discards that doctrine without good reason.
In doing so, it permits the decision of a majority of the voters in Michigan to strip Michigan’s elected university boards of their authority to make decisions with respect to constitutionally permissible race-sensitive admissions policies, while preserving the boards’ plenary authority to make all other educational decisions. “In a most direct sense, this implicates the judiciary’s special role in safeguarding the interests of those groups that are relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.” Seattle, 458 U. S., at 486 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court abdicates that role, permitting the majority to use its numerical advantage to change the rules mid-contest and forever stack the deck against racial minorities in Michigan. The result is that Michigan’s public colleges and universities are less equipped to do their part in ensuring that students of all races are “better prepare[d] . . . for an increasingly diverse workforce and society . . .” Grutter, 539 U. S., at 330 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.
I respectfully dissent.