(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will delve into a decades-old debate over university admissions policies that favor racial minorities, hearing a Michigan case that picks up where the justices left off last session in a dispute from the University of Texas.
Unlike the Texas case that tested a specific affirmative action practice, this new dilemma revolves around a broad state constitutional amendment.
In a twist, the two groups in the Michigan case that favor affirmative action to help minorities have put forward divergent views. They will split their side’s half hour of oral argument, each taking a different tack in hopes of influencing a court dominated by ideologically conservative justices.
They so differentiated their positions in filings to the court last month that the justices took the rare step of granting a request for divided argument at the court’s lectern.
Michigan, where voters in 2006 approved a ban on all “preferential treatment” based on race in education, will have the other half hour to itself.
The country’s struggle with the issue traces back to the early 1960s when President John Kennedy first told federal contractors to take “affirmative action” to hire minorities.