US Supreme Court deals double blow to affirmative action
Tuesday 13 June 1995
Supporters of affirmative action in the United States were yesterday dealt a heavy blow by two Supreme Court rulings that can only strengthen the political campaign to do away with federal programmes designed to protect blacks and other racial minorities. They may also portend a broader reshaping of US civil-rights laws.
In the first case, regarded as a crucial test by affirmative- action friends and foe alike, the court sided with a white Colorado businessman who claimed he had been a victim of reverse discrimination when he lost a federal roadbuilding contract to a minority-owned company, despite an lower initial bid.
Overturning a lower-court dismissal of the complaint, the court declared that henceforth affirmative-action schemes at all levels of government should be subject to "strict scrutiny"- that is, used only in specific instances to counter clear cases of discrimination. That has long been the guideline for state and local programmes. It will now apply to federal laws, traditionally broader and more symbolic.
In a second ruling the justices, by a 5-4 margin, sided with the state of Missouri in a desegregation battle, deciding a lower federal court had exceeded its authority when it told Kansas City it had to continue a desegregation plan until student standards had reached the national average. Here, too, the court was saying measures against past school segregation had done as much as could be expected; to extend them risked distorting the system.
Far more important than their direct impact on the cases in question was the broader message on the future of affirmative action - an issue that contributed to the Republican sweep of Congress in November and which is bound to feature in the 1996 presidential contest.
The celebrated "white male anger" that helped to fuel the Republican victory was largely a product of resentment at programmes held to discriminate unfairly against whites. Nowhere is the movement stronger than California, where a proposal to eliminate such programmes is likely to be on the ballot next year.
No one, though, was scrutinising yesterday's rulings more closely than the White House. Only too aware of the growing hostility to affirmative action, President Bill Clinton ordered a review of federal programmes four months ago. But release of the findings has been delayed, in the hope that the Supreme Court might help Democrats off the horns of a political dilemma.
To scrap the bulk of existing schemes would cause outrage among blacks, the Democrats' most loyal constituency; to come out squarely behind affirmative action, however, would dent Mr Clinton's chances of retaining white middle- class votes, essential to win a second term.
Affirmative action, in short, is a dream "wedge issue" for Republicans.
- 1 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we know about Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
'Jihadi John': Mohammed Emwazi – from British computer programmer to Isis executioner
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...