Petitioners were seeking to win a bid from the US Department of Transportation for a highway project. The bid was given to Mountain Gavel construction, who then sought bids for sub-contractors. Petitioners submitted the lowest bid, which would have won them the contract in most instances. However, the Gonzales construction company was awarded the bid instead because they were classified as a “disadvantaged business.” There were financial incentives for Mountain Gavel to award sub-contracts to disadvantaged businesses. Petitioners sued on the basis of the equal protection clause.
Whether the presumption of race alone for the classification of a group as “disadvantaged” violates the equal protection clause.
Yes, vacated and remanded. Under the constitution, racial discrimination is given strict scrutiny, which requires the policy to be very narrowly tailored and further a compelling government interest. The relevant statute gives favor to minority businesses under the presumption that they are disadvantaged. The court wrote that this sort of policy is incongruent with the policy goals of providing support to “disadvantaged” groups, because it presumes racial minorities are also disadvantaged. This sort of viewpoint, the court wrote, hinders minorities and disadvantaged groups, rather than promotes their relative positions.