Michigan voters had a right to approve a state constitutional amendment banning the use of race-conscious preferences as part of the admissions process for state universities, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-2 decision.

“It’s very clear where the court has come out. The court has said the ban enacted by the voters is OK,” said Olabisi Ladeji Okubadejo, a higher-education attorney in Ballard Spahr’s Baltimore office. “What is less clear is exactly why it’s OK under the constitution, and it’s also not clear what this will mean for future cases.”

The decision does not have an immediate impact in Pennsylvania, which does not have such a constitutional amendment.

The Court’s previous rulings, including a 2003 case involving Barbara Grutter and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, allow race to be considered in limited circumstances. The Grutter case allows the use of race as one of many “plus factors” in evaluating an applicant. After that decision, Michigan voters in 2006 approved Proposal 2, which became the constitutional amendment that the Supreme Court upheld.

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