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Equally Unequal

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Two court cases come to our attention, courtesy of Cato’s Ilya Shapiro. Both involve the favoring of members of one group over another.

The Sixth Circuit ruled that a voter-approved amendment to the Michigan state constitution outlawing racial preferences in college admissions would violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. The amendment states in part that Michigan public colleges and universities shall “not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. . . .”

In his dissent, Judge Richard Griffin writes: “The post-Civil War amendment that guarantees equal protection to persons of all races has now been construed as barring a state from prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race.” Shapiro calls the decision Orwellian.

The other case involves California law banning sellers of eyewear who are not state-licensed optometrists and ophthalmologists from conducting eye exams and selling glasses at the same place of business. The law prevents national eyewear chains from competing effectively in California (since customers prefer to get their glasses and eye exams in one shop).

Cato joins an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take up the California case. Shapiro also says that because there are two conflicting lower-court decisions on the Michigan question, the Supreme Court is likely to add that case to its docket.

Let’s hope all further rulings are based on a clear-sighted respect for equal rights under the law.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Fighting for a Fair Shake

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Ben Vargas wasn’t trying to be the odd man out when he chose to fight for what was right. That’s just how it happened. And he got clobbered for it.

Several years ago, Lieutenant Vargas was the only Hispanic among eighteen mostly white plaintiffs in a reverse discrimination case, Ricci v. DeStefano, just decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2003, 56 members of a New Haven, Connecticut, fire department passed a test for promotion. Fifteen of them were black or Hispanic. When city officials learned that only two of the 15 would be immediately eligible for promotion based on those scores, they threw out the results.

New Haven officials didn’t initially claim the test was unfair. They admitted fearing a lawsuit. But one should think twice — thrice, a thousand times — about acting unjustly in hopes of heading off injustice by others.

After Vargas — one of the two minority test-takers who scored very well — joined a lawsuit against the city, he was shunned by many colleagues. Once even got punched in the face. But he tells the New York Times he has no regrets, considering the kind of world he wants his children to grow up in.

Ben Vargas says, “I want them to have a fair shake, to get a job on their merits and not because they’re Hispanic or they fill a quota.”

Funny, isn’t that what good parents, of all races and ethnicities, want for their children?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.