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GOP lawmaker wants to make it illegal to call out homophobia & transphobia

Free speech protestors
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Accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia could soon be considered defamation in Florida.

Last Friday, Florida state Sen. Jason Brodeur (R) introduced Senate Bill 1780, which would legally redefine “an allegation that [a] plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity” as “defamation per se.”

As The New Republic notes, if passed, the bill would essentially make it easier for people accused of discrimination to sue their accusers. Accusers could face up to a $35,000 penalty if they are proved to have engaged in defamation.

The bill also makes it nearly impossible for accusers to defend themselves in a defamation lawsuit brought by someone they have accused of homophobia or transphobia. “A defendant cannot prove the truth of an allegation of discrimination with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity by citing a plaintiff’s constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs,” or “by citing a plaintiff’s scientific beliefs,” the bill reads.

S.B. 1780, which applies to statements made in print, on TV, and online, would chill speech in Florida, as journalist Erin Reed notes, preventing people from calling out discrimination.

It would also make it harder for journalists in Florida to report on accusations of discrimination by doing away with the journalistic privilege to keep sources anonymous when defending themselves against accusations of defamation. The bill creates “a presumption that a statement by an anonymous source is presumptively false for purposes of a defamation action.” Essentially, this means that any anonymous accusation of discrimination reported on by a journalist would be considered grounds for a defamation lawsuit.

Brodeur’s bill represents Florida Republicans’ second attempt at this type of legislation. As Reed notes, S.B. 1780 is pretty much identical to another bill introduced last year. That earlier bill died in the Judiciary Committee.

In a January 8 post on X, Florida state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D) described S.B. 1780 as “More attempts to chill free speech in the ‘free’ State of Florida.”

According to The New Republic, should the bill become law, it is unlikely to survive legal challenges, as its provisions represent clear violations of free speech and anti-discrimination laws.

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