Cite as: 539 U. S. 306 (2003)
Opinion of the Court
can justify the use of race. Id., at 315. Rather, "[t]he diversity that furthers a compelling state interest encompasses a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element." Ibid.
In the wake of our fractured decision in Bakke, courts have struggled to discern whether Justice Powell's diversity rationale, set forth in part of the opinion joined by no other Justice, is nonetheless binding precedent under Marks. In that case, we explained that "[w]hen a fragmented Court decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of five Justices, the holding of the Court may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds." 430 U. S., at 193 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). As the divergent opinions of the lower courts demonstrate, however, "[t]his test is more easily stated than applied to the various opinions supporting the result in [Bakke]." Nichols v. United States, 511 U. S. 738, 745-746 (1994). Compare, e. g., Johnson v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Ga., 263 F. 3d 1234 (CA11 2001) (Justice Powell's diversity rationale was not the holding of the Court); Hopwood v. Texas, 236 F. 3d 256, 274-275 (CA5 2000) (Hopwood II) (same); Hop-wood I, 78 F. 3d 932 (CA5 1996) (same), with Smith v. University of Wash. Law School, 233 F. 3d, at 1199 (Justice Powell's opinion, including the diversity rationale, is controlling under Marks).
We do not find it necessary to decide whether Justice Powell's opinion is binding under Marks. It does not seem "useful to pursue the Marks inquiry to the utmost logical possibility when it has so obviously baffled and divided the lower courts that have considered it." Nichols v. United States, supra, at 745-746. More important, for the reasons set out below, today we endorse Justice Powell's view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.
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