Judge blocks Florida’s ‘Stop WOKE Act’ pushed by Gov. DeSantis

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — A Florida judge on Thursday declared unconstitutional a Florida law championed by Republican administration Ron DeSantis that restricts race-based conversations and analysis in business and education.

US District Judge Mark Walker of Tallahassee said in a 44-page ruling that the “Stop WOKE” law violates the First Amendment and is impermissibly vague. Walker also declined to issue a suspension that would keep the law in effect during a state appeal.

The law targets what DeSantis has called a “pernicious” ideology, exemplified by the critical race theory — the idea that racism is systemic in American institutions that serve to perpetuate white dominance in society.

Walker said the law, as applied to diversity, inclusion and bias training in companies, turns the First Amendment “upside down” because the state blocks speech by banning discussion of certain concepts in training programs.

“If Florida really believes we live in a post-racial society, let it defend its case,” the judge wrote. “But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment. DeSantis has repeatedly said that any losses at the lower court level on his priorities will likely be reversed by appeals courts that are generally more conservative.

The law prohibits educational or business practices that claim that members of an ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilty for actions committed by others in the past. It also prohibits the idea that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.

The ruling came Thursday in one of three lawsuits challenging the Stop Woke law. It was filed by private entities, Clearwater-based Honeyfund.com and others, who allege that their freedom of expression is being curtailed because the law violates corporate training programs that emphasize diversity, inclusion, elimination of prejudice, and prevention of harassment. work. Companies with 15 or more employees may face civil lawsuits over such practices.

That lawsuit says Honeyfund — which provides marriage registries — wants to protect the rights of private employers to “exchange openly and free information with employees to identify and address discrimination and harm” in their organizations.

“Diversity in the workplace is good for business,” Honeyfund CEO Sara Margulis said on Twitter after the ruling. “Diversity training often addresses concepts such as systemic racism, unconscious bias and privilege. That is why @Honeyfund has challenged this illegal restriction on free speech.”

Another lawsuit, filed Thursday by college professors and students, alleges the law amounts to “racially motivated censorship” that will serve “widespread demands to discuss, study and address systemic inequalities,” underlined by the national discussion on race following the murder of George Floyd, who was black, by the Minneapolis Police Department in May 2020.

“Instead of free and open academic inquiry and debate, instructors are afraid to discuss topics like oppression, privilege, and racial and gender inequality that the legislature doesn’t agree with,” the lawsuit says. “As a result, students are either denied access to knowledge or teachers are forced to present incomplete or inaccurate information that steers in the direction of the legislator’s own views.”

Conservatives see critical race theory less as academic inquiry into truth and history and more as the imposition of a divisive ideology born of Marxism that classifies people into the categories of oppressors and oppressed based on their race.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB7, dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act,” on April 22 at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida.Daniel A. Varela / Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Like the professors, a group of K-12 teachers and a student in a third pending lawsuit allege that the law violates the constitutional protections of free speech, academic freedom and access to information in public schools.

“The Stop WOKE Act aims to bring out the government’s favorite story about history and society and create illegal speech that questions that story,” the lawsuit says.

DeSantis is running for reelection as governor this year and is widely seen as a contender for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination. He has made cultural issues a cornerstone of his administration, most notably banning what he calls “awakened” entities and philosophies. that target discrimination on the grounds of race, gender and sexual orientation.

“What you are seeing now with the rise of this awakened ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and delegitimize our institutions, and I view the awakening as a form of cultural Marxism,” DeSantis said in a December 2021 address. They really want to break the fabric of our society.”

Another example of this is DeSantis’ attempt to penalize Walt Disney World for the company’s opposition to the parental rights law in education, labeled by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law for its gender orientation. instruction in the early classes and makes discussion cold. of the problem in schools in general.

The governor urged the legislature to end Disney World’s special independent district, essentially allowing it to run its own private government. That law won’t take full effect until June 2023, but has already been challenged in court.

Other lawsuits have challenged DeSantis’ priorities, such as a 15-week abortion ban, a measure to fine tech companies if they “de-platform” political candidates over their positions, an “anti-riot” bill issuing new crimes following Black Lives Matter protests and a law imposing new restrictions on elections.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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