Federal court blocks Donald Trump’s ban on anti-discrimination training

A federal court has issued an injunction against a Trump administration executive order that prevented anyone contracted or granted funds by the federal government from offering anti-bias training, which would help prevent race-based or sex-based discrimination.

Donald Trump put the initial executive order into place in September, which banned such training within the executive branch, before expanding the order to include “executive departments and agencies, the U.S. military, federal contractors, and federal grant recipients.” Any training meant to promote diversity, such as education on preventing LGBTQ+ discrimination, will likely be caught in the mix. Training on sexual harassment could also be stopped, based on the language in the order.

Many saw these actions as Trump’s attempt to appeal to his base, white voters specifically, weeks before the 2020 election that he ultimately lost. Eventual winner Joe Biden hammered Trump for the ban in the first presidential debate, which started some of the endless bickering between the two as moderator Chris Wallace watched helplessly.

Trump was attempting to prevent anti-bias training, which he called “indoctrination,” specifically as a counter-measure to the growing popularity of the New York Times’s 1619 Project that details the history of slavery and racism in America.

Trump tweeted that such ideas were “a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue,” asking those in the government to “please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!”

Lambda Legal, The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, CrescentCare, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBTQ+ Community Center, and Service & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) led the LGBTQ+ groups that bought a lawsuit against the administration for the orders in November.

In their filings with the courts, the groups said the ban on anti-bias training violated the First and Fifth Amendment rights of federal contractors and employees to due process by infringing on their free speech, disfavoring them based on their content of their speech, and providing “inadequate notice of the conduct it purports to prohibit.”

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, serving in the Northern District of California, heard oral arguments on November 10. She then issued an injunction against Trump’s orders on December 22, agreeing that it was issued to target specific contractors or employees based on their speech.

Freeman wrote in her opinion that she “agrees with Plaintiffs that the Government’s argument is a gross mischaracterization of the speech Plaintiffs want to express and an insult to their work of addressing discrimination and injustice towards historically underserved communities.

“That this Government dislikes this speech is irrelevant to the analysis but permeates their briefing.”

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success in proving violations of their constitutional rights,” Freeman concluded. “Moreover, as the government itself acknowledges, the work Plaintiffs perform is extremely important to historically underserved communities.”

This lawsuit was separate from one filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in October.

“This injunction was critically important for our clients — organizations and individuals on the front line combating COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and the violence perpetrated against Black and Brown people by law enforcement,” Avatara Smiht-Carrington of Lambda Legal said in a statement, adding that “Judge Freeman saw this ban for what it is: An effort to quash the truth and sweep under the rug an honest and long overdue reckoning with structural racism and sexism in our society.”

The injunction will prevent the enforcement of Trump’s executive order until further litigation determines once in for all if it is legal or not. Since Trump has less than a month left in office, it’s unlikely to be defended by the incoming Biden administration, although it’s not clear yet if he plans to rescind the order itself or simply withdraw the government’s challenge in litigation.

This article was originally published in LGBTQ+Nation on December 24, 2020.