US judge in Texas rules minority business agency must serve all races By Reuters

US judge in Texas rules minority business agency must serve all races By Reuters

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency, founded during the Nixon administration, must avail itself to disadvantaged entrepreneurs of all races and ethnicities, including whites.

The summary judgment rendered on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, appointed in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump, was the latest in a recent series of federal court decisions rolling back decades of affirmative action programs aimed at remedying racial discrimination.

Pittman, a judge in the Forth Worth branch of the Northern Texas District, sided with two white businessmen who sued the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), a branch of the Commerce Department, last year after being denied benefits on the basis of race.

The plaintiffs were told they were ineligible for agency assistance because they were not members of any of the races or ethnicities included on a list of qualified minorities presumed to be disadvantaged and thus entitled to services, according to the judge’s summary of the case.

Pittman found that presumption violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, and cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a case last June striking down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

MBDA attorneys argued that the agency’s polices are constitutional because they help rectify past discrimination in which the government played a role, according to background in the judge’s decision.

But Pittman said such reasoning effectively punishes non-minorities.

“While the agency’s work may help alleviate opportunity gaps faced by MBEs (minority business owners), two wrongs do not make a right,” the judge wrote.

As part of his 93-page decision, the judge granted a permanent injunction barring the $550 million agency from “using an applicant’s race or ethnicity in determining whether they can receive business center programming.”

Three white businessmen originally brought the lawsuit – Jeffrey Nuziard, owner of a chain of sexual wellness clinics in north Texas; Christian Bruckner, a disabled immigrant from Romania who started a federal contracting business in Florida; and Matthew Piper, an architect in Wisconsin.

Piper was dismissed from the case on grounds that he lacked legal standing, though the effect of the judge’s order applies to the agency as a whole and all applicants for its benefits.

The agency itself, formed in 1969 by then-President Richard Nixon as the Office of Minority Business Enterprise and made permanent in 2021, was the primary defendant in the case. Also named were President Joe Biden, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Donald Cravins, under secretary for minority business development, as defendants.

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