Supreme Court Recognizes Benefits of Diversity In Split Decision Favoring Affirmative Action
June 23, 2003
Statement of NOW President Kim Gandy
Forty years ago this month, George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door, blocking African-American students from entering the University of Alabama. George W. Bush made his stand this year at the University of Michigan, in asking the Supreme Court to abolish all affirmative action for racial minorities, but five justices said he was wrong. Their decision will continue ensuring access to higher education for women and people of color as long as these justices remain on the Court.
Widespread racial and gender inequality still exist in virtually every aspect of our society, and higher education is no exception. The University of Michigan policies have created opportunities, helped to overcome past discrimination, and opened avenues for learning and cultural exchange that benefit students of all races. At issue in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger were affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School, respectively, each of which considered race as one of many factors in determining admission. The "point system" in Gratz was rejected, but the Grutter decision upheld the law school's effort to ensure a critical mass of racial minorities.
The narrow margin in the Grutter case underscores the importance of protecting the Supreme Court—and the entire federal judiciary—from Bush's attempt to stack the courts for decades with lifetime appointments of religious and political extremists. The 5 to 4 split in Grutter is a brutal reminder of the Court's delicate balance and what is at stake with the next resignation from the Court. If such a vacancy is filled by a justice in the mold of ultraconservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, civil rights and women's rights would be set back for decades. NOW's Save the Court mobilization will press Senators to confirm justices who will uphold civil rights laws rather than using the Court to advance conservative social policy.
###For Immediate Release
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