The Supreme Court handed down a definitive ruling against the use of racial preferences in college admissions, declaring in a 6-3 decision on Thursday: “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”

The syllabus opinion in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College notes that any exceptions to that principle — based on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — “must survive a daunting two-step examination known as “strict scrutiny.” Unless the discrimination is for a “compelling” government interest, and is “necessary” to achieve it, it is unconstitutional.

Reviewing the history of precedents on racial preferences, which allowed the limited use of affirmative action in college admissions, the syllabus notes that “the Court has permitted race-based college admissions only within the confines of narrow restrictions: such admissions programs must comply with strict scrutiny, may never use race as a stereotype or negative, and must—at some point—end.”

The policies used by Harvard and University of North Carolina failed that test, the Court said, and their weaknesses were exposed when challenged by an advocacy group on behalf of Asian-American students, who suffered the most from racial preference policies.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts elaborated on the expectation that racial preferences  have to end at some point: “The importance of an end point was not just a matter of repetition. It was the reason the Court was willing to dispense temporarily with the Constitution’s unambiguous guarantee of equal protection. … Twenty years later, no end is in sight.” Even with the best of intentions, he said, these policies are unlawful.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion extending the Court’s reasoning to all forms of affirmative action policy in general:

I write separately to offer an originalist defense of the colorblind Constitution … to clarify that all forms of discrimination based on race—including so-called affirmative action—are prohibited under the Constitution; and to emphasize the pernicious effects of all such discrimination. … All citizens of the United States, regardless of skin color, are equal before the law. …  The solution to our Nation’s racial problems thus cannot come from policies grounded in affirmative action or some other conception of equity. Racialism simply cannot be undone by different or more racialism. Instead, the solution … is incorporated in our Constitution: that we are all equal, and should be treated equally before the law without regard to our race.”