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Legal Challenge to Executive Order Limiting Racial Bias Training

The National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Executive Order 13950 (EO). The executive order precluded federal government contractor workplace training that “inculcates in [their] employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” As a result, federal agencies must review their respective grant programs to ensure recipients certify that federal funds would not be used to promote concepts that violated the EO.

The lawsuit requests injunctive and declaratory relief from the EO. The NAACP, which represents the National Fair Housing Alliance, asserted:

Despite the urgent need to address and remedy systemic discrimination and counter the harms stemming from implicit biases, EO 13950 unconstitutionally forces Plaintiffs to choose between censoring speech on these important issues or forfeiting any opportunity to enter into a federal contract for the provision of goods or services or to receive federal funds as a grant recipient. The infringement of Plaintiffs’ private speech on these matters of public concern and public welfare is deeply troubling…This censorship of Plaintiffs’ speech by the federal government is anathema to a free democracy.

The NAACP argues that the EO is a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. Concerning the First Amendment, the organization asserts that the EO censors and chills speech with vague language. This vague language leaves “no objective way to determine which activities are permitted and which are prohibited, creating a broad chilling effect and inviting unpredictable, uneven, and potentially selective enforcement.” Messaging from the executive branch added uncertainty, including its discontinuation of all diversity training within the branch. Regarding the Fifth Amendment, the vagueness of the EO’s language unconstitutionally deprives people of color, women, and LGBTQ communities of equal protection. The NAACP further argues the EO is a pretext for discrimination.