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Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling exempts military service academies

The Supreme Court said Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, it will rule next year on the legality of President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness plan. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
June 30, 2023

U.S. military service academies will be exempt from the Supreme Court’s landmark decision against affirmative action in American colleges and universities.

In a 6-3 decision announced on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action, also known as college race-based admissions policies, is in violation of the 14th Amendment, which ensures that all Americans receive “equal protection of the laws,” regardless of an individual’s race. The case specifically addressed two instances of affirmative action at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted with the majority, while Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented.

READ MORE: Video: Biden attacks Supreme Court: ‘not a normal court’ over affirmative action ruling

While the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action for college universities in the United States, the court’s ruling still allows military service academies to consider race as a factor for admission, according to Military Times.

In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote, “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 court’s decision to ban affirmative action in civilian universities while still allowing it for military service academies prompted an outcry from Democrat leaders on Thursday.

“This decision is deeply upsetting but outright grotesque for exempting military academies,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) 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.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy service academies currently each consider gender, race, and ethnicity as part of the admission process; however, those three factors are not considered primary factors for admission. The military service academies also consider factors such as fitness, letters of sponsorship obtained from legislators, moral character, leadership qualities, and traditional academic standards.

During the Supreme Court’s consideration of affirmative action, former U.S. military leaders wrote an amicus brief urging the justices to allow race consideration to remain a factor for U.S. military service academies.

The brief stated, “History has shown that placing a diverse Armed Forces under the command of a homogeneous leadership is a recipe of internal resentment, discord, and violence. By contrast, units that are diverse across all levels are more cohesive, collaborative, and effective.”