Mar 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Appeals court denounces Florida's "Stop Woke Act" as "1st Amendment sin"

 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends the drivers meeting prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Daytona Beach last month. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

A federal appeals court in Florida blocked enforcement of employer provisions in a law state Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) dubbed the "Stop WOKE Act" in a unanimous ruling on Monday.

The big picture: In upholding an earlier ruling, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in an opinion Monday said the legislation "exceeds the bounds of the First Amendment."

  • It stems from a lawsuit filed by several Florida businesses challenging the act, also known as HB7, which would prevent them from requiring workers to attend workplace training promoting diversity and inclusion.
  • DeSantis administration officials argue the law is designed to prevent indoctrination in workplaces and schools and have indicated they may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the decision.

Details: "This is not the first era in which Americans have held widely divergent views on important areas of morality, ethics, law, and public policy," the appeals court ruling states.

  • "And it is not the first time that these disagreements have seemed so important, and their airing so dangerous, that something had to be done. But now, as before, the First Amendment keeps the government from putting its thumb on the scale," it continues.
  • "By limiting its restrictions to a list of ideas designated as offensive, the Act targets speech based on its content. And by barring only speech that endorses any of those ideas, it penalizes certain viewpoints — the greatest First Amendment sin."

Flashback: Honeymoon registry company Honeyfund, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream franchisee Primo, workplace diversity consultancy Collective Concepts and its co-founder Chevara Orrin filed the suit in 2022.

What they're saying: "Today's ruling is a victory for my freedom of speech and that of all other business owners, but it's also a victory for the free market: businesses remain free to respond to guest and team member needs," Primo CEO Antonio McBroom said in a statement.

  • "The government obviously has no right to patrol my workplace for words that some politicians don't like," added McBroom in the statement, shared by Protect Democracy, which represented the groups along with law firm Ropes & Gray.

The other side: Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement to media that state officials were examining options for potentially appealing the ruling.

  • "We disagree with the Court's opinion that employers can require employees to be taught — as a condition of employment — that one race is morally superior to another race," Redfern said. "The First Amendment protects no such thing."

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