Home » A conservative quest to limit diversity programs gains momentum in states

A conservative quest to limit diversity programs gains momentum in states

by NBC News

A conservative quest to limit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is gaining momentum in state capitals and college governing boards, with officials in about one-third of the states now taking some sort of action against it.

Tennessee became the latest when the Republican governor this week signed legislation that would prohibit banks and other financial institutions from considering a customer’s participation — or lack thereof — in “diversity, equity and inclusion training” or “social justice programming.”

That came shortly after the Democratic governor in Kansas allowed legislation to become law without her signature that will prohibit statements about diversity, equity or inclusion from being used in decisions about student admissions, financial aid or employment at higher education institutions.

Last week, Iowa’s Republican-led Legislature also gave final approval to a budget bill that would ban all DEI offices and initiatives in higher education that aren’t necessary to comply with accreditation or federal law. The measure expands upon a directive last year from the Iowa Board of Regents to eliminate DEI staff positions.

Republican lawmakers in about two dozen states have filed bills seeking to restrict DEI initiatives this year. They are countered by Democrats who have sponsored supportive DEI measures in about 20 states. Altogether, lawmakers have proposed about 150 bills this year that would either restrict or promote DEI efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis using the legislation-tracking software Plural.

How DEI became a weaponized term

Higher education institutions and many businesses have long devoted resources to improving diversity and inclusivity.

More recently, conservative groups began raising concerns that DEI initiatives are promoting an agenda that elevates racial or gender identity over individual merit. Since 2022, about half a dozen conservative or libertarian organizations have offered model measures…

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