Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action, Sends Back to Appellate Court

ABC's Terry Moran discusses the implications of the Supreme Court justices' ruling.
4:53 | 06/24/13

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Transcript for Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action, Sends Back to Appellate Court
♪ stir up a smile, with hershey's syrup. Instructions to the lower court. The issue is this, can universities use a racial preference in deciding who gets into college. That's what university of texas did. Abigail fisher said I didn't get in. Race shouldn't be used that way. The supreme court has been wrestling with this issue 35 years. The lower court listened to university of texas. The university of texas said we're abiding by the law. This is the law as it exists. We're abiding by it. What the court said today is the lower court just rubber stamped that. The court said any use of race is suspect. And what they're saying in a 7-1 decision here, you weren't tough enough on the university. You have to give it more strict scrutiny. You should be more suspicious of this suspect classification. So they want essentially the lower court to go back and be a little tougher on university of texas. There's not a lot of guidance here. There's not a lot of clues as to whether or not this court eventually will strike down affirmative action once and for all as justice thomas and justice scalia and others have argued. They are basically holding back, which is why they got seven members of the court to say we aren't ready to do that, make this case come alive for us more with stricter scrutiny of what the motives of the university really are. What their actions really are. Whether they really need to use race in this way. This incoming, I want to go to the white house, president obama strong supporter of affirmative action. Any reaction from the white house? Reporter: No reaction to this, but the white house did weigh in on this in defense of the university of texas saying its program was appropriate and saying that race can be a factor in decisions as far as administration is concerned. Pretty strong language in the case itself. The solicitor general saying our strength comes from people of different races, different creeds, different cultures relating to freedom and more perfect union. In terms of affirm tifr action the president is a supporter of affirmative action but his statements have been measured. He opposes quotas, prefers race based affirmative action should be one measure of many considered in university admission. It is still possible for this, but as terry pointed out it was justice thomas, who concurred with the opinion but said he would have gone much farther, struck down affirmative action programs full court. I can tell you the obama administration and senior justice officials basic position has been race can be used to help universities have diversity. They think it's paramount, they will continue to watch and fight on this issue. The our chief -- the big supreme court decision was not overturned back in 2003 where sandra day o'connor said at some point affirmative action has to end, not yet. Many thought that was resolving it at least for now. There was a similar issue raised there, about can you use race as a factor. The question people were asking is, is the court going to look at this case and make it specific to texas? And say texas does a lot of things, which can add to a diverse student body. For example, they accept t top 10% in every school in the state of people to get admitted to the school. And that could lead to a more diverse student body. The question people are looking at, will the court in this case say, that's enough in this particular case, that doesn't necessarily mean it would apply to other cases, as terry points out instead they punted and said, send this back to the lower court, apply the right standard, and then let's talk. It may take some time for this to get back to supreme court. Dan abrams, thanks. Thanks to my colleagues. The supreme court not done yet then for this year, major cases still to come on gay marriage and voting rights. We'll cover them, when the decisions come, likely later this week. For now we return to regular programming for our viewers in the west, that's good morning america. I'm george stephanopoulos in new york.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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