Supreme Court Watch

Supreme Court Watch

June 30, 2003
Written by Staff Reports

Affirmative Action upheld

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the legality of limited affirmative action in higher education. Recognizing the importance of affirmative action as a remedy to the nation's legacy of discrimination, the narrow 5-4 decision—released on June 23—upheld the legality of a University of Michigan's law school admissions program that works to ensure the diversity of its student body.

In a companion case, the court rejected the specific weighted point system used by the university's undergraduate admissions office.

The UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, which joined with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and other religious groups in an Amici Curiae (Friends of the Court) brief in support of affirmative action, hailed the decision as one of the most significant civil rights cases of the last 50 years.

ÒIn April, we brought UCC members from across the country to join 10,000 students, civil rights leaders, women's organizations, and business and labor representatives to implore the justices to do the right thing—and they did,Ó said the Rev. Ron Stief of Justice and Witness Ministries' Washington, D.C., office.

Sodomy laws rejected On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that banned private consensual sexual activity between adults of the same gender. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the state cannot demean the existence of homosexuals or Òcontrol their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,Ó according to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority.

The decision likely will negate similar sodomy laws in 12 other states.

Since 1969, UCC agencies have spoken against laws that criminalize gay and lesbian citizens. A 1975 General Synod pronouncement recognized the injustice and suffering caused by legal discrimination, and in 1987, 1991 and 1993, the General Synod called on Òindividuals, churches, associations and conferencesÉ to work for repeal of current laws that make private consensual sexual behavior a crime, and to work for enactment of legislation that guaranteed the civil liberties of all persons without regard to sexual orientation.Ó

These actions were noted in an Amici Curiae brief filed in support of the petitioners in the case, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner.

In a statement celebrating the court's decision, the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, minister for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender concerns and HIV/AIDS ministry, said, ÒWith the support of the UCC General Synod and a variety of UCC agencies and organizations, I stand here today in solidarity with these actions affirming that sexuality is a gift from God to be shared with love and responsibility and without government intrusion.Ó

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