A conservative legal group founded by former Trump administration officials Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows secured an injunction which prevents the Biden administration from discriminating based on race and sex in the distribution of COVID-19 aid for restauranteurs.
The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas by America First Legal, stems from debt relief afforded to “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that Congress passed last month. A provision of the ARPA requires the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to “prioritize awarding grants” to eligible restaurants “owned and controlled” by women, veterans, and “socially disadvantaged individuals.” The SBA defines the latter group as “those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society because of their identities as members of groups and without regard to their individual qualities” which stem from “circumstances beyond their control.”
Jason and Janice Smith, who own and operate a restaurant named Blessed Cajuns, sued on the theory that prioritizing aid applicants based on race and gender attributes amounts to unconstitutional discrimination.
In a 12-page order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Conner, an appointee of George W. Bush, agreed. The judge ordered the SBA to cease prioritizing socially disadvantaged applicants ahead of the Smiths until their application is “processed and considered in accordance with a race-neutral, sex-neutral ‘first come, first served’ policy.”
“Here, Plaintiffs’ are suffering a continuing and irreparable injury based on the direct, lingering effects of the race-based, sex-based discriminatory application process. An ongoing constitutional deprivation creates a substantial threat of irreparable harm,” O’Conner wrote. “Accordingly, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction because Plaintiffs are experiencing race and sex discrimination at the hand of government officials and the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs indicates that the entire $28.6 billion in the RRF may be depleted before Plaintiffs’ applications can be considered for relief under the program.”
Following the ruling, Miller said the Biden administration’s policy was “an outgrowth of flawed ideologies like Critical Race Theory.”
“This order is another powerful strike against the Biden Administration’s unconstitutional decision to pick winners and losers based on the color of their skin,” said Miller, one of the architects of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies. “AFL will not relent in our mission to restore and protect civil rights and the sacred principle of equality under the law for all Americans. The Biden Administration is officially on notice.”
America First Legal last month filed a nearly identical lawsuit on behalf of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller last month claiming that the Biden administration’s distribution of COVID relief funds discriminated against “white ethnic groups.”
Read the ruling below.
[image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images]
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