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Appeals Court: Fearless Fund Entrepreneur Grant Program For Black Women Is Unconstitutional

Appeals Court: Fearless Fund Entrepreneur Grant Program For Black Women Is Unconstitutional

Fearless

Arian Simone photo via Fearless Fund/ Edward Blum photo via The Federalist Society

A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that the Fearless Fund’s grant program for Black women entrepreneurs is discriminatory and likely to be deemed unconstitutional. The ruling, issued by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Miami, marks a crucial moment in the ongoing legal battles against corporate diversity programs, The Associated Press reported.

The case against the Atlanta-based Fearless Fund was brought by the American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), a conservative group led by Edward Blum. Blum is also known for his role in the Supreme Court case that ended affirmative action in college admissions. The lawsuit claims that the Fearless Fund’s grant program, which exclusively targets Black women business owners, violates section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. This law prohibits racial discrimination in the enforcement of contracts, originally designed to protect formerly enslaved people from economic exclusion.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appellate court found that Blum’s group is likely to prevail in its argument that the grant program is discriminatory. The court ordered the Fearless Fund to suspend its Strivers Grant Contest, which provides $20,000 grants to businesses majority-owned by Black women, while the lawsuit continues in a federal court in Atlanta.

Fearless Fund CEO and founder Arian Simone called the ruling “devastating” for the organization and the women it supports. “The message these judges sent today is that diversity in Corporate America, education, or anywhere else should not exist,” Simone said in a statement. She emphasized the importance of continuing to fight for diversity and inclusion, despite the setback.

“I am shattered for every girl of color who has a dream but will grow up in a nation determined not to give her a shot to live it,” Simone said to CNN. “On their behalf, we will turn the pain into purpose and fight with all our might.”

The outcome of this legal battle could have far-reaching implications for how courts view initiatives aimed at leveling the playing field for historically marginalized groups.

“America is supposed to be a nation where one has the freedom to achieve, the freedom to earn, and the freedom to prosper,” Simone said. “Yet, when we have attempted to level the playing field for underrepresented groups, our freedoms were stifled.”

In her dissenting opinion, Eleventh Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum criticized Blum’s lawsuit, likening it to an athlete “flopping” on the field to draw a foul. She argued that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated genuine interest in participating in the grant contest but were instead exploiting the system.

Arian Simone photo via Fearless Fund/ Edward Blum photo via The Federalist Society, https://fedsoc.org/contributors/edward-blum