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Two years ago, a federal appeals court held that Michigan voters violated equal rights principles when they banned race-based preferences by the state.

Say again? A mandate for equal protection conflicted with the federal Equal Protection Clause?

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court did a service for the cause of fairness — and logic — by reversing the Sixth Circuit's self-contradictory ruling and upholding the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, known as Proposal 2.

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The 6-2 decision came in a challenge to Proposal 2's prohibition on the use of race in university admissions. Justice Anthony Kennedy's plurality opinion, and concurring ones by Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, devoted considerable space to the opaque doctrine that the Sixth Circuit relied on. The "political structure" cases hold that a ballot measure must be voided if it's intended or likely to "encourage ... injury by reason of race," as Justice Kennedy put it.

But Michigan's voters can't be accused of any such unworthy intent. Just the opposite. Proposal 2 prohibits pigeonholing, or assigning rewards or demerits, based on race.

To be sure, the Constitution has been held (wrongly, I submit) to permit preferences in limited circumstances. But it does not mandate them in any circumstance. So the core question was simple: Can Michigan's voters say "no" to judging people by race?

They indeed have this freedom, the court ruled. Nothing in the Constitution "disempower(s)" them from taking preferences off the table. To hold otherwise would "be an unprecedented restriction" on the right "to speak and debate and ... act through a lawful electoral process."

Counting Michigan, six states have outlawed race-based preferences at the polls. Now, with the green light from the court, voters everywhere should consider following suit.

As society becomes more diverse, it becomes more and more divisive to categorize people by color. To avoid "injury by reason of race," we must not show favor, or disfavor, to anyone on that basis.

Meriem L. Hubbard is a principal attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in support of Michigan's Proposal 2.

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