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Federal Judge Halts Trump Diversity Training Limits on Contractors

A federal judge granted a temporary injunction to a gay rights advocacy organization that claimed Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting certain types of diversity training violated their free speech.

(CN) — A federal judge granted a temporary injunction to a gay rights advocacy organization that claimed Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting certain types of diversity training violated their free speech. 

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman granted a partial preliminary injunction to The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz, saying their First Amendment rights to conduct diversity training that discusses concepts like intersectionality, or notions around sex, gender and race were violated by an executive order issued by Trump on Sept. 22. 

“Given the evidence of plaintiffs’ dependence on federal contracts and grants, and of the government’s intent to enforce sections 4 and 5 of the Executive Order against all federal contracts and grants, respectively, the court finds that plaintiffs have shown a reasonable likelihood that sections 4 and 5 will be enforced against them,” the court wrote in a 34-page order issued Tuesday night. 

Labson Freeman was careful to distinguish between federal contractors like The Diversity Center and other branches of the federal government, where Trump’s executive order carries more sway. 

“The court expressed reservations about plaintiffs’ standing to challenge section 3, relating to the United States Uniformed Services, or section 6, relating to federal agencies’ direct training of their own personnel,” Labson Freeman said. 

But the judge did recognize that The Diversity Center’s right to conduct training without fear of losing federal funding outweighed the government interest in censoring the speech of organizations outside of its immediate purview. 

“The government’s interest is outweighed by the effect of the impermissible reach of the Executive Order on plaintiffs’ freedom to deliver the diversity training and advocacy that they deem necessary to train their own employees and the service providers in the communities in which they work, using funds unrelated to the federal contract,” Labson Freeman wrote.

In arriving at her conclusion, Labson Freeman noted that although the executive order mentioned vague terms like “divisive concepts” and prohibited “race and sex stereotypes,” the memo issued days later directed agencies to root out terms like “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” “positionality,” “racial humility” and “unconscious bias.”

“They say intersectionality can’t be taught, but that is what our clients do,” Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Labson Freeman during a recent hearing. “They teach the intersections of race, gender and sexual orientation in order to show the systemic biases against the marginalized communities they serve.”

Other organizations signing onto the lawsuit include the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. 

Hallward-Driemeier said one of the sponsors of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago withdrew after becoming concerned they could lose their federal funding if they participated or even sponsored diversity training like the ones outlined in Trump’s order. 

The dispute stems from an executive order signed by Trump that bars the type of diversity training being conducted throughout the private and public sector that seeks to raise awareness around concepts of white privilege, implicit bias and cultural relativism. 

Trump’s order calls such principles “un-American” and says it undermines an emphasis on individual achievement and calls for people to be judged according to their demographic groups. 

“Many people are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual,” the executive order said.  

Tuesday's order means The Diversity Center and other plaintiffs can move forward with their programs without immediate fear of funding withdrawal. The case must still be decided on the merits should it go to trial. 

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