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The Fearless Fund suit is heating up in Atlanta’s 11th Circuit.
A panel of three appellate judges on Saturday temporarily blocked Fearless Fund from awarding its $20,000 Fearless Strivers Grant to Black women entrepreneurs as the lawsuit filed against it makes its way through the courts.
The American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), led by Edward Blum, who was behind the efforts to overturn affirmative action, sued Fearless Fund in August, alleging that its Strivers Grant program discriminates against non-Black women. Judge Robert Luck and Andrew Brasher, both appointed by President Donald Trump, agreed with the AAER, calling the grant “racially exclusionary” and said it likely violated Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which barred racial discrimination in contracts.
But another judge, Judge Charles Wilson, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, dissented and criticized the AAER for “weaponizing” the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as it was initially targeted to help the formerly enslaved. “AAER fails as an organization bringing a Section 1981 claim on behalf of white members. The inclusion of Asian business owners, while a racial minority, does not cure the inclusion of white business owners,” Wilson wrote in his dissent.
The ruling halts the grant process until a separate panel of judges decides whether the Strivers Grant can be deployed while the suit is played out in district courts. There is no date on when that panel of judges will convene.
Last week, Clinton-appointed Judge Thomas Thrash initially denied the AAER’s request to halt the Strivers Grant and said the fund was protected under the First Amendment because its deployment counted as charitable giving. The AAER then filed an emergency motion to appeal that decision, leading to the three-judge panel that eventually overturned Thrash’s ruling 2-1.
Alphonso David, Fearless Fund’s legal counsel and CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum, released a statement saying the fund and its legal team “respectfully disagree with this Court’s decision, appreciate the important points raised by the dissent, and look forward to further appellate review.” He added, “We remain committed to defending the meaningful work of our clients.”