(Reuters) – A white married couple that owns two landscaping companies has sued Houston, claiming that the city’s requirement that certain government contracts be set aside for minority-owned businesses runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution.
The two businesses owned by Jerry and Theresa Thompson in a complaint filed in federal court in Houston on Tuesday said the city’s program violates their constitutional rights to equal protection. The city has said that the four-decade-old program ensures that historically disenfranchised people have an opportunity to participate in lucrative government contracting, and fosters a more competitive economic environment.
The lawsuit is the latest to challenge affirmative action programs since the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down race-conscious policies in college student admissions in rulings involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. The suit was filed on the same day that an anti-affirmative action group sued the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, claiming the Army school’s affirmative action practices unconstitutionally discriminate against white applicants.
Under Houston’s program, the city sets annual numerical goals for awarding different types of contracts to businesses owned by minorities. Between July 2021 and June 2022, about 24% of professional service contracts and about 14% of construction contracts were awarded to minority-owned businesses, according to the city.