A federal judge has blocked a Colorado agency from distributing pandemic relief funds based on the color of an applicant’s skin.
The temporary restraining order from Denver-based U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez came late Oct. 12, less than a week after plaintiff Stephen E. Collins, a white man, and his event-planning business, Resort Meeting Source, sued the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) for what Collins’ attorney previously called a “racially discriminatory program.” The program gives a preference to minority applicants.
The defendant, Patrick Meyers, is being sued in his official capacity as executive director of OEDIT.
After acknowledging in the 11-page order that “Collins is the Caucasian owner and sole proprietor of Resort Meeting Source,” Martinez, an Obama appointee, found based on what he called the “admittedly limited record” before him that the plaintiffs have “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”
“This Temporary Restraining Order shall remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on October 26, 2021, unless extended by the Court for good cause,” the judge wrote.
The recipients of grants under the state’s Disproportionately Impacted Business Grant program, which was created to help small businesses, had been scheduled to be announced on Oct. 18, but Martinez’s order immediately restrains Meyers, “as well as his agents, employees, successors, and assigns, and all other persons in active concert or participation with him,” from moving forward with the grants.
The program is part of SB 21-001, legislation that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed into law on Jan. 21.
According to Collins, “a minority-owned business, unlike a non-minority-owned business, automatically qualifies as a disproportionately impacted business regardless of whether it meets any of the other criteria,” Martinez wrote.
Collins’s lawyers at Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) argued that their client was less likely to obtain relief because the program establishes a preference for minority-owned businesses and he’s disadvantaged in the process because he is white. PLF is a Sacramento, California-based national public interest law firm that describes itself as defending “Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse.”
“Colorado cannot use racial preferences to grant COVID-19 relief,” PLF attorney Wen Fa said last week, as reported by The Epoch Times.
“Equality before the law is a vital part of the Constitution, and discriminating against individuals based on arbitrary classifications like race is always wrong. We’re not challenging that the program gives relief and grants to small businesses. We’re challenging the fact that the program provides for a minority-owned business preference in doing so.”
OEDIT’s Meyers could not be immediately reached for comment.
This is a developing story. This article will be updated.