Illinois Attorney General Logo

Office of the
Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

Illinois Attorney General Logo


June 20, 2024

Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, leading a coalition of 19 attorneys general, issued a letter to the American Bar Association (ABA), Fortune 100 company CEOs and other leaders to refute baseless attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and programs.

Today’s letter comes in response to one sent to the ABA by another group of attorneys general on June 3 falsely claiming that the association’s standard on diversity and inclusion violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (SFFA). That letter was the most recent of several attempts made by opponents of racial equality to expand the reach of the Supreme Court’s ruling far beyond its scope.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in SFFA addressed the limited context of race-conscious higher education admission decisions. It did not extend to all programs aimed at promoting diversity, equity and inclusion,” Raoul said. “Opponents of racial equity are attempting to use the court’s ruling to further their own unrelated priorities. Diversity initiatives are not just laudable goals, they are also broadly popular and good for business. I have a deep commitment to working with the business and legal communities to help further diversity, equity and inclusion in Illinois, and I will continue to be an advocate and champion of civil rights and racial progress.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2023 ruling that higher education institutions generally may not consider race in admission decisions, groups seeking to dismantle broader programs aimed at reducing racial inequities have attempted to use the ruling to justify their actions, which have included intimidation and phony legal challenges.

After the 2023 ruling, Raoul and other attorneys general sent a letter to business leaders applauding corporate efforts to recruit diverse workforces and create inclusive work environments, clarifying that these programs remained legal and calling on the companies to maintain their commitment to diversity-focused programs.

Today’s letter reinforces that support and reiterates that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives continue to remain legal. It also provides new information about the cynical attempts by opponents to undermine those efforts with false claims that programs aimed at inclusivity are actually discriminatory.

Raoul and the attorneys general note that the ABA standard’s requirement that law schools provide “full opportunities to the study of law and entry into the profession by members of underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities,” is something schools already must do under the U.S. Constitution and antidiscrimination statutes. The standard does not require that law schools make admissions decisions based on race or ethnicity, and, in fact, does not mention admissions at all.

The attorneys general write in today’s letter that recent studies show diversity efforts in corporate America are making progress toward achieving equitable representation in corporate workforces, leadership and boards. Raoul and the coalition describe how companies with diverse leadership teams are associated with higher financial returns and higher social and environmental impact scores. Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity show an average 27% financial advantage over others. Companies in the bottom quartile for ethnic diversity are 24% less likely to outperform. Companies in the top quartile for ethnically diverse boards are 13% more likely to outperform than those in the bottom quartile.

The attorneys general also note that diversity efforts aren’t just good for business, they are popular among Americans. Consumers pay attention to public pledges and expect companies to follow them with action. More than half of consumers believe companies that issue a statement supporting racial justice must follow up with concrete action. 70% of consumers want to know what the brands they support are doing to address social issues. In addition, 78% of adults in the United States support businesses taking active steps to ensure that companies reflect the diversity of the American population.

Joining Raoul in signing the letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.