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Lambda Legal Urges Court to Halt Implementation of Ban on Speech about Systemic Racism, Sexism, and Implicit Bias

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“We are under no illusions as to the long-term damage the Trump administration can inflict on its way out the door.”
November 16, 2020

Lambda Legal last night urged a federal district court to bar the Trump administration from implementing its recent executive order that prohibits federal contractors and grantees from conducting workplace diversity trainings or engaging in grant-funded work that explicitly acknowledges and confronts the existence of structural racism and sexism in our society. Lambda Legal last week filed a lawsuit challenging the ban.

“The Trump administration has been characterized by its disdain of everyone it considers an other, and its efforts to squash the truth. Even as the sun sets on it, this administration seeks to suppress the truth about the harms of systemic racism and sexism, and implicit bias,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “We are under no illusions as to the long-term damage the Trump administration can inflict on its way out the door. Cutting federal funding now for organizations on the front line combatting COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and the violence perpetrated on Black and Brown people by law enforcement – epidemics linked by their disproportionate impact on communities of color – would severely restrict their ability to protect people from harm and deliver critical services at a time when those services are needed more than ever.”

“Black and Brown LGBTQ and gender nonconforming youth and adults are disproportionately represented in the youth and criminal justice systems,” said Bernadette E. Brown, proprietor of B. Brown Consulting. “From interaction with law enforcement to incarceration they face inequitable treatment and harm, including sexual victimization. Addressing systemic racism and implicit bias within the justice systems is essential to ending this epidemic and protecting youth and adults from harm.”

“Disparities with respect to both Covid-19 and HIV/AIDS are also shocking,“ Gonzalez-Pagan added. “Black and Brown people are more likely to get sick, and more likely to die as a result of systemic racism and sexism, structural inequities, and the role of explicit and implicit bias on the part of health care providers. Our plaintiffs are committed to working with these populations, but to do so effectively they have to train people about the role of implicit bias in contributing to disparities, and explicitly acknowledge and confront systemic racism, sexism, and anti-LGBT bias.”

The Executive Order, issued September 22, 2020, and later Trump administration guidance labels the discussion of intersectionality, critical race theory, white privilege, systemic racism, or implicit or unconscious bias in diversity training as “race and sex scapegoating” and forbids agencies from “promot[ing]” these “divisive concepts.” The order describes such trainings as un-American, directs agency heads to audit internal training curricula and discontinue these trainings, to conduct a similar audit of federal contractors, and to suspend or deny funding to contractors and grantees whose trainings or grant-funded activities cover these topics.

On November 2, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the ban in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a consulting company, an individual plaintiff, and six organizational plaintiffs. The organizational plaintiffs include LGBT Centers, an advocacy and service organization for LGBT seniors, and HIV/AIDS health and advocacy organizations from across the country. In its brief filed today, Lambda Legal is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the Trump administration from implementing the order and cutting funding for federal contractors.

The consultancy plaintiff is B. Brown Consulting, a Michigan-based business with a federal contract to train correctional facility staff, governmental agencies, and nonprofits. The individual plaintiff is Dr. Ward Carpenter, co-director of Health Services at LA LGBT Center. The organizational plaintiffs include: the Los Angeles LGBT Center; The Diversity Center in Santa Cruz, CA; AIDS Foundation of Chicago; CrescentCare in New Orleans, LA; Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA; and, SAGE, based in New York City.

The lawsuit is The Diversity Center v. Trump. Read the brief here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/diversity-center_us_20201117_plaintiffs-motion-preliminary-injunction, and more about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/the-diversity-center-v-trump

More about the clients is available here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/the-diversity-center-v-trump_plaintiffs

Lambda Legal’s team working on the case includes: Camilla Taylor; Karen Loewy; Scott Schoettes; Currey Cook; Omar Gonzalez-Pagan; Avatara A. Smith-Carrington; Alexis Paige; and, Cheryl Angelaccio. They are joined by pro-bono co-counsel from Ropes & Gray, including: Douglas Hallward-Driemeier; Kirsten Mayer; Nathalia Sosa; Jessica Soto; Thanithia Billing; Annie Monjar; Jennifer Cullinane; Ethan Weinberg; Fred Boehrer; and, William Richard Allen.

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Contact Info

Contact: Tom Warnke; (c): 213-841-4503; Email: twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and policy work. www.lambdalegal.org

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