Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Discrimination claim appears to divide high court

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared split today as it heard arguments on whether federal law bans discrimination against whites.

The case was brought by 20 white firefighters in New Haven, Conn. -- including one white Hispanic -- whose passing scores on a promotion test were thrown out because no blacks passed. Any eventual decision by the Supreme Court could decide the long-term fate of affirmative action in the United States.

Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared sympathetic to the suing firefighters, USA Today reported. Kennedy is often the swing vote on the nine-member court between the four justice liberal bloc and the four justice conservative bloc. From the bench, Kennedy said the city would have to show a compelling reason for throwing out the test results.

The 2003 exam was designed to select 15 candidates for captain and lieutenant. When no blacks and only one Hispanic scored a passing grade, the city decided not to use the results for promotions, saying it did not want exposure to suits from blacks and Hispanics.

A decision is expected later this year. New Haven is a racially mixed city. About 44 percent of its residents are White, 37 percent are Black, and 21 percent are Latino. CNN has more.

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