On June 3, the U.S. appeals court blocked a grant program for Black women-owned businesses. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the risk of a discrimination lawsuit succeeding over the program was too great. 

In the Monday decision, the court ruled that Venture Capital Fund’s Fearless Fund will not be able to continue giving grants to Black women-owned businesses. The divided U.S. appeals court made the decision to side with an anti-affirmative action group that filed a lawsuit because of the program.

The Fearless Fund is a win for conservative activist Edward Blum, who is a driving force behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s opposition to race-conscious college admissions and affirmative action policies. 

Blum’s group, the American Alliance for Equal Rights, began criticizing the Fearless Fund last year for allegedly violating a “19th-century federal law that bars racial bias in private contracts.”

As reported by Reuters, the Fearless Fund is a generous program that awards Black women who run small businesses up to $20,000 in grants, as well as other resources and support to help them grow. The lawsuit was concluded by the 11th Circuit panel, which is headed by Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom, who was appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump.

The panel found that the “Fearless Fund’s program did not warrant speech protections under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.” The decision was supported by another Trump appointee, Robert Luck, but Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum, an Obama appointee, disagreed. Rosenbaum accused the American Alliance of lying about the harm caused by the program. The attorneys for the Fearless Fund said in a statement that the court’s ruling goes against over 150 years of civil rights law, and they believe the decision”is not the final outcome in this case.”

The Fearless Fund believes they have “a constitutional right to express its belief in the importance of Black women to the economy through charity.”

However, Blum said, “Civil rights laws do not permit racial distinctions because some groups are overrepresented in various endeavors, while others are under-represented.”

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