A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Wednesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a challenge to California's affirmative action [JURIST news archive] ban in public university admissions. The ban, approved by voters in 1996 as Proposition 209 [text], prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment to any individual on the basis of race, sex, national origin and ethnicity in the areas of public education, public employment and public contracting. The lawsuit was filed by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) [advocacy website], a group that supports full integration and equality of minorities and marginalized groups into American society. BAMN and other Proposition 209 opponents argued that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the US Constitution. Plaintiffs had cited [brief, PDF] the 2003 US Supreme Court [official website] case Grutter v. Bollinger [opinion text], which upheld affirmative action at the University of Michigan Law School. In Wednesday's ruling, the judge declined to follow in Michigan's footsteps, noting that the Supreme Court only suggested using race as preference and did not require it, so California may use whatever method it desires. Plaintiffs plan to appeal.
Proposition 209 was upheld [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court of California [official website] in August. In addition to California, five states have adopted affirmative actions bans. Last month, Arizona voters [JURIST report] approved [results] Proposition 107, amending the state constitution [HCR 2019 text] to ban affirmative action programs in state government agencies. In November 2008, ballot measures banning affirmative action failed in Colorado and passed in Nebraska [JURIST reports]. In 2006, Michigan voters approved a similar state constitutional amendment, which was upheld [JURIST reports] in March 2008 by a federal district judge in a lawsuit alleging that such an affirmative action ban violated the US Constitution.