A federal judge struck down a key provision in an anti-woke law in Florida and called it “positively dystopian” because it infringed on free speech rights.
The Individual Freedom Act was passed earlier in the year by the Republican-led Florida legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The law banned schools and companies from giving instructions or trainings that place blame on any group of people, based on race or sex, for the feelings of “guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” other groups of people may experience.
The lawsuit against the law was filed on behalf of a University of South Florida professor, a student, and a student group under the objection that it would illegally curtail free speech on college campuses.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker agreed and issued a temporary injunction against the law on Thursday.
Walker called the law “positively dystopian” in its attempt to bar certain speech about race and gender from schools and universities.
“The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints,” wrote Walker in the 138-page order. “Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves.”
The judge was appointed to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama.
DeSantis appeared to refer to the law during his victory speech on election day, when he won reelection with a massive margin over his Democratic opponent.
“Florida is where woke goes to die!” he said to loud applause.
A spokesperson for the ACLU praised the decision.
“The First Amendment broadly protects our right to share information and ideas, and this includes educators’ and students’ right to learn, discuss, and debate systemic racism and sexism,” said senior staff attorney Emerson Sykes.
A spokesperson for the governor meanwhile said the state would appeal the decision.
“We strongly disagree with Judge Walker’s preliminary injunction orders on the enforcement of the Stop W.O.K.E. Act and will continue to fight,” said Bryan Griffin.
Here’s more about the judge’s decision:
Federal court halts the enforcement of Florida’s ‘Stop W.O.K.E. Act’