In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action. This meant race could not be taken into effect in public education, employment and contracting.
Ten years later, Michigan voters did the same. But two years ago the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals declared the ban unconstitutional.
Now the Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in, which is why civil rights leaders gathered at UC Berkeley Monday to say any decision will affect what happens here in California.
"We're saying right now that if it's unconstitutional to violate black and Latinos' civil rights in Michigan, which the Sixth Circuit has said, then why is it being done right now in California?" said Ronald Cruz of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.
In the first year after Prop. 209 passed, UC's Boalt Law School reported that of the 271 students admitted, only one was African-American.
Tania Kappner, who graduated from Cal's Graduate School of Education, is an example of how things quickly changed. "So you face a situation where I was the only black student in my class shortly after the ban. For an education program, that's just unacceptable," she said.
Ward Connerly is considered to be the man behind Prop. 209 and Michigan's anti-affirmative action law. "There is nothing more fundamental in my view than the right to equal treatment by their government of every citizen in this country," he said.
Bertrall Ross teaches law UC Berkeley. "The two laws are very similar to each other and given the similarities, I would say that whatever the court says about Prop. 2 would have the same impact on Prop. 209," he said.
The Supreme Court will review Michigan's anti-affirmative action law in the fall.