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LGBTQ groups say Trump order limiting diversity training is unconstitutional

The groups filed suit over Trump's order barring federal contractors from using trainings that engage in "race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating."
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President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during a Make America Great Again rally at Fayetteville Regional Airport Nov. 2, 2020, in Fayetteville, N.C.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

LGBTQ advocacy groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming President Donald Trump's executive order barring federal contractors from utilizing certain types of diversity training programs is unconstitutional.

Six groups and a doctor who specializes in transgender medicine, represented by Ropes & Gray and LGBTQ rights group Lambda Legal, filed a complaint in San Francisco federal court claiming the September executive order violates their free-speech rights by limiting the information they can present in conducting the trainings.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and two other civil rights groups filed a similar lawsuit last week saying Trump's order will undermine efforts to combat systemic racism and sexism.

Trump's September order prohibits federal contractors from using trainings that engage in "race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating," such as teaching that men and members of certain races are inherently sexist or racist. Trump in issuing the order said it was necessary to combat the "un-American" view that individuals should be held accountable "for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex."

In Tuesday's complaint, the groups said the order would force them to choose between federal funding and educating their own staffers and those of other federal contractors on widely accepted principles such as implicit bias and cultural humility.

"The President wants to suppress this speech, no matter how effective it is, or how crucial it is to protecting vulnerable people from harm, because acknowledging these systemic barriers that threaten the lives of some people can make others uncomfortable," the groups wrote in the complaint.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump's executive order came about three weeks after the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memo barring federal agencies from using taxpayer dollars to fund "un-American propaganda sessions" that provided instruction about critical race theory and white privilege or taught that the United States is "an inherently racist or evil" country.

In a letter to the White House last month, dozens of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Trump to withdraw the executive order. They said it would "create confusion and uncertainty, lead to non-meritorious investigations, and hinder the ability of employers to implement critical programs to promote diversity and combat discrimination in the workplace."

Companies that do business with the federal government, which employ about 25 percent of all U.S. workers, could lose their contracts if they run afoul of the executive order.

The groups involved in Tuesday's lawsuit all receive federal funding, according to the complaint, and said they are at risk of losing that money if they continue conducting training programs that have been proven effective at addressing systemic bias against LGBTQ people, minorities and women.

The groups said Trump's order violates their free-speech and due-process rights under the U.S. Constitution. They are seeking a declaration that the order is unlawful and preliminary and permanent injunctions barring federal agencies from implementing it.

The case is Santa Cruz Lesbian and Gay Community Center v. Trump, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 5:20-cv-07741.

For the plaintiffs: Anne Johnson Palmer of Ropes & Gray; Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

For the government: Not available

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