Michigan’s high schools may soon see major changes in their sports seasons after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s current scheduling discriminates against female athletes.

The court upheld a December 2001 ruling by a federal district court in Michigan that the state’s athletic association was violating the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by scheduling six high school girls’ sports in inconvenient and nontraditional seasons.

Currently, basketball–traditionally a winter sport–is scheduled for the fall, and volleyball–a fall sport in most states–is scheduled for the winter. Colleges and universities almost all follow the traditional seasons, which hurts female recruits in Michigan, the lawsuit said. The team members also miss opportunities for various national awards and recognition, such as All-American teams.

The National Women’s Law Center, a Washington-based organization that is serving as counsel in the class action suit against Michigan’s athletic association, praised the unanimous court ruling and urged the association to start making changes immediately.

The association “must stop asking Michigan high school girls to get in line behind the boys and instead focus on assuring that girls have the athletic opportunities they deserve,” said Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel for the center.

Michigan’s athletic association has more than 1,300 member schools, and has said its scheduling is designed to maximize opportunities for participation. The appeals court’s decision, however, said the evidence the association presented did not justify separate seasons for boys and girls, and led to girls “bearing all the burden of playing during disadvantageous seasons.”

Upon hearing the court’s ruling, the association said it would take action to make sure that no changes are required for the upcoming academic year. Some fall sports practices are scheduled to being as early as next week.

For more information:

American Civil Rights Institute
California’s Proposition 209:

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A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that the city’s 20-year-old program to promote women and minorities in city contracts is in violation of Proposition 209, a voter-approved state initiative banning preferential treatment based on race and sex.

In his ruling, Judge James Warren barred San Francisco from enforcing the law or “any other public contracting law that discriminates or grants preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

City officials said they would appeal the ruling, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome issued a statement in support of both the appeal and “substitute legislation” that might be more palatable to the court.

Proposition 209 was passed in 1996, altering the state constitution to ban preferences for women and minorities in college admissions, hiring and public contracting.

Warren was the first judge to examine whether the San Francisco ordinance, which makes special allowances for women and minorities seeking city contracts, was constitutional. Since its inception in 1984, the ordinance has come under attack from conservative groups and companies who say it is unfair and discriminatory.

The ordinance automatically knocks 10 percent off bids from minorities and women when the city is evaluating them against estimates from companies owned by white men. It also requires contractors to hire a certain percentage of women and minority subcontractors or to show that they made a good-faith effort to try to meet those goals.

The city’s argument in court relied heavily on studies showing that before the ordinance was in place, businesses owned by women and minorities were virtually excluded from winning city contracts.

A spokesperson for City Attorney Dennis Herrera told reporters the city believes it is on solid legal ground as it moves ahead toward an appeal of Judge Warren’s decision.

— Robin Hindery.