The United States Supreme Court ruled against affirmative-action admissions policies in universities and colleges Thursday.

Politico reported that in a 6-3 decision and then a 6-2 decision, respectively, the Court determined that the University of North Carolina and Harvard University violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by discriminating against white and Asian American applicants in favor of underrepresented racial groups. 

The UNC and Harvard cases stemmed from lawsuits brought on by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, led by Edward Blum — a long-time affirmative action opponent.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Both (Harvard and UNC admissions) lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race … We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.”

Though Roberts’ opinion did not explicitly overturn precedents like Grutter v. Bollinger that upheld affirmative action, Justice Clarence Thomas said in a separate concurring opinion that the ruling does do that.

“(The Court’s opinion) sees the universities’ admissions policies for what they are: rudderless, race-based preferences designed to ensure a particular racial mix in their entering classes,” Thomas said. “They are plainly — and boldly — unconstitutional.”

Thomas is the Court’s longest-serving justice and the second Black justice in the Court’s history.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in both cases, saying, “The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Court’s newest and first female Black justice, dissented in the UNC case and recused herself from the Harvard case due to her previous association with the university.

“But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life,” Jackson wrote.

Roberts stopped short of saying that race could never be a factor in admissions decision-making.

“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise,” Roberts wrote. 

Supporters of affirmative action say minority groups become even more underrepresented in higher education.

“The research is exceptionally clear,” said University of Texas professor Stella Flores, whose specialty is higher education and public policy, in an interview with NPR last fall. “There’s no other alternative method that will racially diversify a student body, other than the use of race as one factor of consideration.”

The decision also opens the door to potential court challenges to affirmative action in fields outside education, one of Harvard’s lawyers told NPR.