On the eve of Election Day, staffers from the Environmental Protection Agency revolted against Donald Trump’s recent ban on diversity and anti-racism training in government agencies. The LGBTQ advocacy group Lambda Legal also filed a federal lawsuit against Trump’s ban on Election Day.
On Monday morning, 80 employees in the EPA’s Office of General Counsel — about one-third of its staffers — signed a letter stating that Trump’s ban will only further entrench racism in the federal government and also violate freedom of speech guaranteed by First Amendment. Lambda Legal also made the same argument in their court filing.
“These directives,” the EPA employee’s letter read, “are punitive and demeaning to federal employees, contractors, and grantees — especially those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. These directives both perpetuate and amplify the harmful stereotyping they purport to discourage.”
Trump’s order particularly harms the EPA’s Office of General Counsel seeing as it focuses on civil rights and ethics work that affects marginalized communities. Trump’s order has also caused the EPA to recently cancel an LGBTQ Pride event and other environmental justice events just to conform to its dictates.
Lambda Legal’s lawsuit — filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs including LGBTQ centers and HIV health and advocacy organizations — states that Trump’s order makes it harder for groups to fight three concurrent epidemics: COVID-19, HIV/AIDS and police violence against Black people.
“The work [the organizations do] saves lives. But to do it, and do it effectively, they have to train people about the role of implicit bias in contributing to disparities, and explicitly acknowledge and confront systems racism, sexism, and anti-LGBT bias,” Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s Director of Constitutional Litigation said in a statement. “President Trump wants to silence them, but they refuse to be silenced. The LGBT community knows to well that silence equals death.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Urban League and National Fair Housing Alliance have also filed similar lawsuits against Trump’s anti-diversity training order. The groups say his order has had a chilling effect on federal agencies, the military, contractors, and federal grant recipients including universities, hospitals and nonprofits.
The Trump administration has called diversity training programs “divisive, anti-American propaganda” that is “contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.” His administration also encourages people to call a hotline if any group is found to be doing diversity training.