The new Supreme Court term starts Monday, and one of the most important cases the court hears could be the one brought by a white woman against the University of Texas. Abigail Fisher says she was rejected while minority students with lesser academic qualifications were admitted, the Washington Post reports. Arguments begin next month, and if the court rules broadly, colleges across the nation could be barred from using race as a factor when admitting students—which the court has allowed, in a limited fashion, since 1978. The conservative court has shown its distaste for racial preferences in the past, but on the other hand, more than 70 amicus briefs have been filed in support of UT's diversity policy from a wide range of places including the military, many Fortune 100 companies, and professional athletes.
Civil rights issues will dominate the high court's term, NBC News notes. Among the other issues that could come before the justices:
- A number of challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman for federal purposes, are likely to come before the court. If DOMA is struck down, the federal government would have to recognize gay marriages performed in states where they are allowed.
- The court could also address the challenge to California's Proposition 8, which made gay marriage illegal in that state. But some legal experts think the Supremes may choose to tackle DOMA now and wait on the issue of the constitutionality of gay marriage.
- The court may also hear a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, which has since 1965 required states with a history of discrimination to get permission from the federal government before changing any election procedures. Opponents of the law say it's unfair and unnecessary now.