Critics of affirmative action filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the United States Naval Academy of discrimination for using race as a factor in its admissions decisions.

Lawyers for the group Students for Fair Admissions argue it is unconstitutional for the service academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to consider one’s race in the selection process to become a midshipman.

“Instead of admitting midshipmen solely on leadership potential and objective metrics … the Academy focuses on race,” according to the complaint against the sea service school, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division.

“Because the Academy provides a racial ‘benefit’ to ‘some applicants but not to others,’ it ‘necessarily advantages the former group at the expense of the latter.’”

Students for Fair Admissions filed a similar lawsuit against the United States Military Academy at West Point last month. The pair of legal challenges comes after the anti-affirmative action group succeeded in June in getting the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down race-conscious admissions as part of lawsuits involving admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. That landmark ruling, however, included a footnote about the military service academies.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “No military academy is a party to these cases, however, and none of the courts below addressed the propriety of race-based admissions systems in that context. ... This opinion also does not address the issue, in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present.”

Fewer than 1,200 future Navy and Marine Corps officers attend the academy each year, according to the court filing, which added that fewer than 10 percent of applicants to the school eventually enroll.

Former top military leaders filed a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court last year that contended affirmative action is important for national security, Military Times previously reported.

It is not Naval Academy policy to comment on pending litigation, academy officials said.

Geoff Ziezulewicz and Irene Loewenson contributed to this report.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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