VICTORY! Judge Halts Implementation of Ban on Speech about Systemic Racism, Sexism, and Implicit Bias

January 20, 2021

“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 sexism and structural racism in our society.” 

(San Francisco, CA, December 23, 2020) – Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring the Trump administration from implementing its 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. 

Judge Freeman issued her ruling after hearing oral argument November 10, 2020, on the motion for a preliminary injunction sought by Lambda Legal in its lawsuit filed earlier in November challenging the ban. 

From the ruling: 

“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.” 

“Judge Freeman’s ruling granting our nationwide preliminary injunction provided a moment of hopefulness at the end of an administration that has consistently attempted to undermine the very humanity of oppressed communities,” said Aisha N. Davis, Esq., AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) Director of Policy. “For AFC, this ruling means that we are able to continue to do the work with and on behalf of our communities – and do so in a way that acknowledges the very serious need to address white supremacy. As we turn the page on 2020 and the Trump administration, we are looking forward to fewer impediments to the necessary work we must do around racial equity in spaces dedicated to serving people living with HIV.” 

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. 

“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. 

“To effectively address racial disparities in our health care and legal systems, our clients have to train people on systemic racism, sexism, and anti-LGBT bias,” Smith-Carrington added. “This is a victory for truth, science, and for the principle of services focusing on the needs of the people being impacted instead of serving the agenda of the Trump Administration.” 

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. Lambda Legal filed its brief seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the Trump administration from implementing the order and cutting funding for federal contractors on November 15, 2020. 

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 ruling here:

Read more about the case here:

More about the clients is available here:

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. 


Contact: Tom Warnke; (c): 213-841-4503; Email:

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.

Categorized under Advocacy, AFC news and National.

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