The Supreme Court is taking up a case about Michigan's voter-approved ban on considering race in college admissions.
The justices are hearing argument Tuesday over whether the change to the state constitution that voters backed in 2006 discriminates against minorities.
In 2003, the court upheld the affirmative action policy at University of Michigan's Law School, but opponents quickly launched a referendum campaign to ban the programs. In 2006, the voters overwhelmingly supported the ban of such programs in higher education.
NPR reports the minority enrollment dropped dramatically after colleges and universities statewide stopped using race or ethnicity to decide admissions rates. In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled the voter-approved referendum discriminatory and the Supreme Court stepped in to decide.
"What the Michigan citizens did and said in a vote, by 58 percent of the people, is that it's wrong to treat people different on the basis of your race or color of your skin," Attorney General Bill Schuette said. "That's what this case is about - equal treatment."
The majority of the court's officials are conservative and have become increasingly wary of race based policies.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in his 2007 opinion on Parents Involved v. Seattle School District, "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
However, supporters of affirmative action policies like the ACLU say the ban on affirmative action policies is a "separate and unequal system."
The outcome also could affect similar measures in California and Washington state and perhaps signal whether affirmative action opponents may try to replicate their successes at the ballot box in other states.
The case is the second that deals with affirmative action in as many years. In June, the justices ordered lower courts to take another look at the University of Texas admissions plan in a ruling that could make it harder for public colleges to justify any use of race in admissions