US judge refuses to block venture capital fund’s grants for Black women

US judge refuses to block venture capital fund’s grants for Black women

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -A federal judge in Atlanta on Tuesday rejected a bid by the anti-affirmative activist behind the successful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to race-conscious college admissions policies to bar a small venture capital fund from awarding grants to businesses run by Black women.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash during a hearing denied a request by Edward Blum’s American Alliance for Equal Rights for a preliminary injunction blocking Fearless Fund from considering applications for grants only from businesses led by Black women, Blum said.

Blum in an email confirmed Thrash’s bench ruling. With a Saturday deadline approaching for this year’s grant applications, Blum said he would file an emergency appeal with the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Fearless Fund’s representatives had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit is one of three that Blum’s Texas-based group had filed since August challenging grant and fellowship programs designed by the venture capital fund and two law firms to help give Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented minority groups greater career opportunities.

A different group founded by Blum was behind the litigation that led to the June decision, powered by the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority, declaring race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina unlawful.

The lawsuit against Fearless Fund took aim at its Fearless Strivers Grant Contest, which awards Black women who own small businesses $20,000 in grants and other resources to grow their businesses.

The lawsuit alleges that the program’s criteria illegally excludes applicants who are white, Asian or other races, in violation of Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. That federal law was enacted after the U.S. Civil War to guarantee all people the same right to make and enforce contracts “as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

While the law was adopted with formerly enslaved Black people in mind, courts have interpreted it for decades as protecting white people from racial discrimination as well.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham)