By Morgan Marietta
Following a dramatic year of controversial rulings , the Supreme Court began hearing new cases on Monday with a full agenda.
Some of the court’s most important upcoming cases focus on the future of affirmative action , equal treatment of LGBTQ people , and the control of election laws . The court will hear the cases in the fall and then likely issue rulings in spring 2023.
As a close observer of the court , I think this term’s rulings will continue to reject the court’s previous liberal decisions and instead reflect a conservative interpretation of the historical meaning of the Constitution. At least three of those upcoming rulings are likely to profoundly influence people’s everyday lives in the United States.
College admissions and scholarships can alter the trajectory of a life.
College administrators want diverse student populations but are less clear about which categories – including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and wealth – should influence admission and financial aid decisions. When it comes down to the specifics of which people are underrepresented in higher education, and which are overrepresented, the questions become thorny.
Many different groups feel that they are being mistreated when their specific circumstances and histories are taken into account.
The Supreme Court will hear two lawsuits on Oct. 31 brought by the anti-affirmative action organization Students for Fair Admissions . This group argues that Harvard and other schools blatantly discriminate against Asian students. But the claim is a proxy for all other preferences grounded in identity, including those in favor of Black applicants and those disadvantaging whites.
Universities justifying their diversity policies argue that the 14th Amendment and its guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” encourage giving an advantage to historically oppressed groups.
The opponents of affirmative action argue that the 14th Amendment was meant to uphold racial neutrality , meaning all individuals should be treated the same, regardless of race. In this view, the Constitution forbids considering race in almost any decisions that influence individual advancement.
If is it equality – the same treatment of all races, regardless – this supports the argument that universities may not give preferences to applicants of one race over another.
If the 14th Amendment is found to guarantee equity – or trying to create equal outcomes for all by favoring historically disadvantaged groups – this supports the argument that affirmative action policies are constitutionally sound, and perhaps even required in public institutions.
The current court, with a conservative majority, almost certainly favors the argument that the equal protection clause endorses equality, not equity.