California's 16-year-old ban on affirmative action in the state university system has been reaffirmed by an appeals court. Proposition 209, which was passed by the state's voters in 1996 and upheld after a court challenge in 1997, bans public school from basing admissions on race or sex. Its opponents—backed by Gov. Jerry Brown—argued that the system unfairly allows universities to grant preferential treatment to groups like military veterans, athletes, and children of alumni, but cannot address racial inequality, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
"Today's ruling is good news for everyone who values fairness and equal opportunity, because Proposition 209 guarantees fair treatment for everyone, regardless of skin color, sex, or ethnic ancestry," said a lawyer who argued the case for the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation. The ban's opponents pointed to developments since 1996, including a 50% drop in the number of black and Latino freshmen at UCLA, and the US Supreme Court's 2003 decision that affirmative action could be used in college admissions. The top court is expected to address the issue again later this year. Analysts believe the case could put an end to affirmative action programs nationwide.