Equal Protection

When the Virginia legislature redrew congressional voting districts following the 2010 census it increased the number of minority voters in District 3, the state’s only majority-minority district, from 53.1 to 56.3 percent.

The plan was challenged before a three-judge federal district court in Virginia. Plaintiffs argued that the plan unconstitutionally packed minority voters into District 3 thus diluting their ability to influence races in other districts.

For the second time the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy is unconstitutional in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

Even though this case arises in the higher education context, the Supreme Court has decided relatively few affirmative action decisions so all are of interest to state and local governments that use race as a factor in decision-making.

In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. All state laws and court decisions banning same-sex marriage are now invalid.  

Justice Kennedy’s opinion can fairly be described as a celebration of marriage generally.  “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”

The U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause’s “one-person one-vote” principle requires that voting districts have roughly the same population so that votes in each district count equally. But what population is relevant—total population or total voting population—and who gets to decide? The Supreme Court will decide these issues in Evenwel v. Abbott.

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