Affirmative action, Wikipedia's renditionsays, is a term that "refers to procedures & policies that take factors including 'race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin' into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group 'in areas of employment, education, and business', usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination
"The term being first used in the United States in Executive Order 10925 signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961, where it was employed to promote actions that achieve non-discrimination.; and then in 1965, where President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted Executive Order 11246 which required government employers to take 'affirmative action' to hire without regard to race, religion and national origin. In 1968, gender was added to the anti-discrimination list. Comparable procedures in other countries are also known as reservation in India, positive discrimination in the United Kingdom, and employment equity in Canada."
This morning The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in what NBC News and most other media outlets have characterized as "the most important civil rights case to come before the justices in the past six years: a challenge to the use of race as a factor in admissions at the University of Texas in Fischer v. University of Texas."
NBC further reported yesterday that "in its most recent high-profile case involving the use of race in education, the high court in 2007 invalidated public school programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. that used students' race as a 'tiebreaker' for admission to certain high schools and kindergartens. Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion on that case: 'The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.'"
But this morning USAToday reported, “Several liberal justices implied that a new ruling from the high court changing the rules laid down in a 2003 University of Michigan case would create havoc not only for admissions offices but for district courts across the country charged with interpreting the law… Conservatives appeared dissatisfied with the current standard for achieving a "critical mass" of minority students, particularly because it's so difficult to define.”
Marcia Coyle's National Law Journal article this morning headlined that "Prospects Look Dim at Supreme Court for University's Affirmative Action Policy."
Ms. Coyle's article notes that the Fisher case has drawn roughly 90 amicus briefs, with more than 70 supporting the University of Texas.
Petition for a writ of certiorari
Transcript of Hearing