On October 29, 2020, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of President Trump’s “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” (“Trump Truth Ban” or “Order”) prohibiting speech addressing diversity and inclusion. LDF is challenging the Order (EO 13950) as a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech and the Fifth Amendment guarantees of Due Process and the Equal Protection of the Law. 

The Trump Truth Ban went into effect on September 22, 2020, and its censorship applies to current and prospective federal contractors, subcontractors, federal grant recipients, and U.S. military, as well as federal agencies and agency employees. The Order affects federal contracts or specified federal grants executed on or after November 21, 2020.

The swift implementation serves to censor federal contractors and grantees who wish to present historically accurate information and context to their employees to advance the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also extends to subcontractors and vendors, ensuring an alarmingly wide reach and widespread damage. Further alarming are the echoes of McCarthyism through the establishment of a “hotline” for reporting contractors and subcontractors who hold workforce training sessions that include topics banned in the Order.

LDF’s litigation is exceedingly important, because a change in the Administration does not automatically rescind the Trump Truth Ban and there has already been a broad chilling effect. Our litigation is supported by a broad coalition of national and local organizations, including the African American Policy Forum, which has condemned this censorship and created a social media campaign demanding the #TruthBeTold about our nation’s pervasive history of racism and sexism.

Read our full complaint here.

On January 7 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor suspended the implementation and enforcement of the Trump Truth Ban following a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining the Executive Order in Santa Cruz Lesbian and Gay Center v. Trump. The Department of Labor issued guidance indicating that the Office of Federal Compliance Programs would cease investigations into suspected violations at agencies or contractors, stop enforcing the Executive Order, and disband the hotline established to make complaints.

On January 12, 2021, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), along with co-counsel Winston & Strawn LLP, filed an amended complaint in its lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The complaint adds the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity (AAAED) as a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, which challenges the order on the grounds that it violates the free speech, due process, and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution. For four decades, AAAED has been a leader in equal opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity training for its members, who consist of federal contractors and grantees in higher education and private industry.

Read the amended complaint here.

On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order revoking the Trump administration’s “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” (“EO 13950”). The Biden-Harris administration’s revocation of the Trump Truth Ban protects free speech and expression against the dangerous censorship imposed by Trump’s EO, and reflects this administration’s commitment to ensuring equity for all communities, and removing barriers to equal opportunity. 

Read our press release here.

IMPACT OF EXECUTIVE ORDER 13950

This Executive Order sends a dangerous message aimed at constraining freedom of expression, stirring up racial enmity, and undermining gender equality. It is a blatant assault on the constitutional sensibilities of the American people to suggest that it is anything other than a thinly veiled attempt to punish the recipients of federal funds for supporting views with which President Trump disagrees.

  • The Order makes federal contracts contingent upon subscription to a false and revisionist history of our nation and compliance with censorship of what the administration deems “Divisive Concepts,” “Race or Sex Stereotyping,” and “Race or Sex Scapegoating.”

  • One of the most problematic aspects of the Trump Truth Ban is that it is vague and ambiguous. Portions of the Order prohibit any training that concerns the United States’ history of race or gender discrimination in a manner that may hurt the feelings of an attendee. In fact, the Order appears to prohibit broad categories of speech, including, but not limited to, the topics of unconscious or implicit bias; white privilege, male privilege or cis-gender privilege; systemic racism or sexism; and other related topics that may cause someone “discomfort, guilt, or anguish … on account of his or her race or sex” — a notably vague and subjective standard. 

  • The most direct and immediate impact of the Order is that government agencies, private organizations, and academic institutions have postponed, cancelled, and altered their diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings — some in eager compliance with the attacks on anti-racism training, others out of fear of losing funding, contracts, or accreditation.

  • These cancellations have reportedly taken place in several government agencies, including the Department of Defense; the Air Force; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Veterans Administration; the Department of Justice; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the U.S. Agency for International Development; and others.

  • The damage resulting from this Order is greater and farther-reaching than simply to the Federal government workforce and professionals who conduct these types of trainings. The damage has spread quickly, from corporations to higher education to the military.

  • The Trump Truth Ban is also an attempt to rewrite the history of our nation, to take away people’s ability to express themselves, and their freedom to share their lived experience with others.

The Trump Truth Ban is an unprecedented act by the Trump Administration that significantly hinders important efforts —including trainings and other forms of private speech in the workplace— to eradicate race and sex stereotyping and other continuing manifestations of entrenched discrimination and bias against people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

 

MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS

#TRUTHBETOLD CAMPAIGN

The African American Policy Forum launched the #TruthBeTold campaign to document the impact and damage caused by the Trump Truth Ban. The campaign underscores the need for deeper engagement on and examination of issues of race, gender, intersectionality, and justice.
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