Ropes & Gray and Lambda Legal Secure Preliminary Injunction in Case Challenging Trump Administration Ban on Diversity Trainings

In The News
December 23, 2020

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on Dec. 22 barring the Trump administration from implementing key provisions of an Executive Order prohibiting 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.

Judge Freeman’s order follows a motion for preliminary injunction filed by Ropes & Gray and Lambda Legal on Nov. 16 seeking to bar implementation of the Trump administration’s Executive Order 13950. Ropes & Gray and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Nov. 2 challenging the ban 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. Oral arguments were heard on Dec. 10.

In her ruling, Judge Freeman wrote that:

“The Court 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.”

The Executive Order, issued on September 22, 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.” Administration officials have described such trainings as un-American, and the Executive Order and subsequent guidance direct 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.

“This injunction was critically important for our clients – organizations and individuals on the front line combatting COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and the violence perpetrated against Black and Brown people by law enforcement,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow at Lambda Legal. “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 Lambda Legal press release is here.

The lawsuit is The Diversity Center v. Trump. Read the ruling here:

The Ropes & Gray team includes litigation & enforcement partners Douglas Hallward-Driemeier and Anne Johnson Palmer, litigation & enforcement associates Ethan Weinberg, Thanithia Billings, Annie Monjar, and Nathalia Sosa and litigation program paralegal Fred Boehrer and litigation paralegal specialist William Richard Allen.