The state Senate on Thursday voted to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow all state universities to consider race and gender in deciding students to admit.
SCA 5 repeals portions of Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot measure prohibiting using race or gender in admission decisions.
"A blanket prohibition on consideration of race and gender was a mistake in 1996 and we are still suffering the consequences today," said Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Los Angeles), the bills author.
He said the percentage of minority students in the University of California system has declined at an alarming rate.
The Democratic supermajority in the Senate was needed to provide the two-thirds vote to approve the measure and send it to the Assembly for consideration.
Republicans including minority leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar opposed the measure.
"This bill allows our public schools to use race and gender to discriminate against students," Huff said.
[Updated 2:42 p.m. PST Jan. 30: The measure could go on the ballot in November, but more likely would be put before voters in 2016, to coincide with the next presidential election.]