WASHINGTON—A splintered Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 6-2 that states may end racial preferences without violating the U.S. Constitution.
The case came from Michigan, which in 2006 passed a voter initiative ending racial preferences. A federal appeals court had struck down the measure, finding that it served to disadvantage minorities in the political process.
That decision was widely expected to fall, and it did on Tuesday without a single rationale from the Supreme Court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a plurality including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, said the case wasn’t about resolving the debate over affirmative action, but rather “who may resolve it.” He wrote the Constitution doesn’t forbid voters from ending the practice, which was instituted by officials at the University of Michigan and other state agencies.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, filed a 58-page dissent. Justice Elena Kagan was recused from the case.
The University of Michigan has been a frequent battleground over affirmative action. In 2003, a narrowly divided court upheld the practice at the flagship university’s law school but struck down the method it employed for undergraduate admissions for making race too dominant a factor.