DETROIT (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday ordered a new review of a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in college admissions, vacating a three-judge panel's ruling striking down the law.
A majority of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit voted for a rehearing of the matter by the full court, the court said Friday, granting a request from the Michigan attorney general.
The decision in July, that a 2006 amendment to the state constitution "unconstitutionally alters Michigan's political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities," had raised the possibility of a new U.S. Supreme Court battle over affirmative action policies.
The voter-approved amendment reversed five decades of policies at Michigan's public colleges and universities. Race-conscious admissions were adopted by the schools in the 1960s and 1970s.
A civil rights group and others had challenged the ban, arguing that universities give consideration for admissions based on rural background, income, status as military veterans and for other reasons and the law prevents racial or ethnic minorities from seeking the same consideration.
In a statement after he asked for the broad rehearing of the case, state Attorney General Bill Schuette had said it was "absurd to conclude that banning racial discrimination somehow perpetuates racial discrimination."
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 ruled that universities could not establish quotas for members of certain racial groups, but could consider race or ethnicity as a "plus" along with other factors.
(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Jerry Norton)