Supreme Court Upholds Use of Race in U. of Texas Admissions, Lambda Legal Applauds

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June 23, 2016
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Today, the Supreme Court, voting 4-3, ruled that University of Texas at Austin (UT)'s admissions process meets the constitutional standard for use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

This is the second time—the first was in 2013—the nation’s highest court has weighed in on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

We are gratified that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of UT’s efforts to achieve equal opportunity in higher education by considering race as a factor in undergraduate admissions decisions. Racial and ethnic disparities persist in our nation, in such areas as education, employment, criminal justice and healthcare.

The Supreme Court again has recognized the value of diversity in our society, upholding race as a legitimate consideration in undergraduate admissions, both to combat the legacy of prejudice and to create a diverse student body that benefits all.

Justice Kennedy’s decision today emphasized that "diversity takes many forms." The communities we represent know all too well the importance of understanding, tolerance and pride in being part of a community that values diversity and the strengths and experiences each of us can bring to society.

It’s been just days since LGBT people, most of whom were Latinx, were killed in Orlando for being who they are. Our nation's growing recognition of the shared humanity and dignity of LGBT people has evolved as others in this nation have come to know the LGBT individuals in the midst of their families and communities.

But until all LGBT people and people of color are accepted fully wherever they live, we will never have real safety and security.

If we want to continue to make this a better nation for our children, and for ourselves, we must ensure that our educational institutions, and the world beyond them, bring together people of diverse backgrounds who can learn from and support one another.

"Until all LGBT people and people of color are accepted fully wherever they live, we will never have real safety and security."

Disparities along racial and ethnic lines continue to persist in our nation, and these disparities are even greater when we factor in gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Combatting stereotypes and bias that impede access to opportunities in this nation is a pressing issue not only for people of color, many of whom are LGBT and suffer compounded discrimination, but for all of us, who gain strength from being part of a diverse community.

As legal advocates for LGBT people and people living with HIV of all races and ethnicities, we are deeply committed to the values of diversity and fairness. With this ruling, we are hopeful that UT and colleges and universities across the country will continue to ensure qualified candidates of diverse backgrounds will have a chance at a quality education.

Today was a bittersweet one for the ideals of diversity and inclusion in this country. While the Court affirmed race conscious admissions, the Court voted 4-4 in the United States v. Texas case, leaving in place a lower court decision that blocks President Obama’s programs to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and barriers to work.

Millions of immigrants will continue to be prevented from reaching their full potential and will live in fear that they or their loved ones could be deported, with LGBT immigrants remaining particularly vulnerable. We will continue to seek dignity and respect for immigrants, including thousands of LGBT immigrants in this country.

In November, Lambda Legal joined the National Women’s Law Center and GLAD to file a friend-of-the-court brief focusing on the case’s implications for women and LGBT people of color and arguing that the UT’s use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause. Mayer Brown LLP and Yale Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic were counsel on the brief.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions, while remanding the case back to the lower courts to determine if UT’s admissions process met the constitutional standard for use of race as a consideration. On remand, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, for the second time, ruled in favor of UT’s admissions policy, and today the Supreme Court affirmed that ruling.

Read the press release.