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U.S. Supreme Court gears up for civil rights battles

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The U.S. Supreme Court returned to work following its summer recess this week with in-boxes filled with civil rights disputes.

At the core are three issues, two emanating from the 1960s and the third of more recent vintage.

One case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, puts affirmative action to the test.

The schools within the University of Texas system grant automatic admission to students graduating at the top 10 percent of their high school class. All others go through an application process in which race plays a factor.

Abigail Fisher, a white female, alleges she was denied admission because of her race and is challenging the application policy’s constitutionality.

The other ghost from the ’60s involves elections laws, including those affecting five Florida counties.

The cases stem from Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires certain governmental entities with a history of racial discrimination to receive federal permission before changing their voting or election laws. Although most of Florida is exempt from Section 5 requirements, it nonetheless applies to specific counties in Florida — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe counties.

Finally, the court will hear two cases on gay marriage. One challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the other concerns California’s 2008 Proposition 8, which defines marriage as a union between members of the opposite sex.

Read the full story on the Supreme Court’s fall docket in The Guardian.

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