Florida’s governor is facing an uphill legal battle for his anti-woke legislation.
Federal Judge Mark Walker filed a 44-page injunction against Governor Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE Act” and temporarily struck parts of it down on First Amendment grounds.
“Florida’s legislators may well find plaintiffs’ speech repugnant. But under our constitutional scheme, the remedy for repugnant speech is more speech, not enforced silence,” says Walker.
HB 7: Individual Freedom, also known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” was signed into law by DeSantis on April 22, saying that “subjecting individuals to specified concepts under certain circumstances constitutes discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.”
The law effectively bans discussion or corporate training that makes listeners feel discomfort over their race, which targets racial-bias training, anti-racism training, diversity training, and more. The bill went into effect on July 1.
The law is facing numerous legal challenges. A Florida-based honeymoon registry company called HoneyFund and Ben and Jerry’s are in the process of suing the law to protect diversity and inclusion training on first amendment grounds, according to Axios Tampa Bay. The ACLU and other law firms filed a lawsuit last Thursday claiming the law violates the first and 14th amendments. Another lawsuit filed by Florida educators in April is still undecided.
DeSantis is expected to appeal the decision which could result in the injunction being blocked by an appeals court, according to Politico.
Why it’s news
The law’s passing was a cultural victory for DeSantis, who appears to be angling himself for a 2024 presidential run against former President Donald Trump. He also signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill earlier this year, removed Disney World’s tax-exempt status in retaliation for recent pro-LGBTQ+ statements, and resisted enforcing face masks and stay-at-home orders during the COVID pandemic.
The legal battle could be a setback for DeSantis, who is facing an election against Democratic contender Charlie Crist in November. A July poll shows DeSantis leading Crist 47% to 44%, according to Newsweek.
“The ruling was heralded as a ‘major victory for free speech’ by the group of businesses who sued the state,” says Politico.
US Today mocked the law in an opinion piece Tuesday, saying “All the law is trying to do is bar discussions of racism or sexism that might make white dudes like me feel ‘guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress.’ Haven’t we not suffered enough?”
“In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida,” says DeSantis.
“Finally, a concerted counterattack has begun… the Florida statute does not reduce academic freedom and is perfectly within the purview of the state legislature, which also is responsible for the funding and oversight of public universities,” says National Review Online.
“In the popular television series Stranger Things, the ‘upside down’ describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down… in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely,” says Walker’s injunction.