News (USA)

Ron DeSantis suffers humiliating defeat in his war on “woke” businesses

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis Photo: Shutterstock

A federal appeals court ruled unanimously that Florida can’t enforce its new “Stop WOKE Act.” One of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ (R) most hyped laws, it prohibits businesses from requiring employees attend mandatory diversity and inclusion training.

During his failed presidential bid, DeSantis hyped the “Stop WOKE Act” on the campaign trail. Like his losing attempt to become the Republican candidate, he has been repeatedly stymied from enforcing it.

The court agreed with a lower court’s ruling that the law infringed on the First Amendment rights of business owners and affirmed a temporary injunction issued by the lower court.

“This is not the first era in which Americans have held widely divergent views on important areas of morality, ethics, law, and public policy,” a three-judge panel wrote in Monday’s decision. “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.”

The lower court judge’s original ruling was scathing in its assessment of the law.

“Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down,” he wrote in the ruling. “Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

Lawyers for the state argued in front of the appeals court that the First Amendment didn’t apply because the state was trying to ban conduct and not speech. The court didn’t buy the reasoning and flatly rejected it.

“We cannot agree, and we reject this latest attempt to control speech by recharacterizing it as conduct,” the panel said. “Florida may be exactly right about the nature of the ideas it targets. Or it may not. Either way, the merits of these views will be decided in the clanging marketplace of ideas rather than a codebook or a courtroom.”

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