The Supreme Court voted to uphold a Michigan ban on affirmative action in college admission practices on Tuesday.
Justices ruled 6-2 that voters have the right to amend the state constitution to prohibit public schools from taking race into account while considering applications.
A lower federal court previously set aside the constitutional amendment, calling it discriminatory.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said that voters have a right to eliminate a practice they consider unwise. He said nothing in the Constitution or any other court case gives judges the right to undermine election results and that the Michigan 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was "an unprecedented restriction on a fundamental right held by all in common."
Seven other states, including California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire, have similar bans.
“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” Kennedy said. "It is about who may resolve it."
While the amendment was adopted democratically, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision violates the rights of minorities.
“But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups,” Sotomayor said, reading her 58-page dissent aloud in the courtroom Tuesday.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Sotomayor in dissent.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with Kennedy.
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because she reportedly worked on the case at an earlier stage.