Supreme Court ruling against race-based college admissions leaves door open for military academies to consider race

News & Politics

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against race-based college admissions considerations, a move that has been decried by Democrats and celebrated by Republicans. But a footnote in the opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts indicates that the high court’s decision does not address the matter as it pertains to military academies.

“The United States as amicus curiae contends that race-based admissions programs further compelling interests at our Nation’s military academies. No military academy is a party to these cases, however, and none of the courts below addressed the propriety of race-based admissions systems in that context. This opinion also does not address the issue, in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present,” the footnote reads.

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor discussed that footnote.

“To the extent the Court suggests national security interests are ‘distinct,’ those interests cannot explain the Court’s narrow exemption, as national security interests are also implicated at civilian universities,” she wrote. “The Court also attempts to justify its carveout based on the fact that ‘[n]o military academy is a party to these cases,'” she continued. “Yet the same can be said of many other institutions that are not parties here, including the religious universities supporting respondents, which the Court does not similarly exempt from its sweeping opinion.”

“The Court’s carveout only highlights the arbitrariness of its decision and further proves that the Fourteenth Amendment does not categorically prohibit the use of race in college admissions,” Sotomayor wrote.

Lawmakers took issue with the military academies exception.

“This decision is deeply upsetting but outright grotesque for exempting military academies,” Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado tweeted. “The court is saying diversity shouldn’t matter, EXCEPT when deciding who can fight and die for our country—reinforcing the notion that these communities can sacrifice for America but not be full participants in every other way.”

“So military academies can use race-conscious admissions policies because it’s fine to explicitly and intentionally send our Black and brown kids off to die, but not explicitly and intentionally give them access to education? Their priorities are clearer than ever,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York tweeted.

Republican Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida supported the Supreme Court’s ruling, but lamented that military academies were not included.

“I’m extremely disappointed military academies have been exempted. These institutions should be MERIT-BASED to ensure we get the best and brightest officers,” Waltz tweeted.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion that “the Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause. Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.”

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