JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Tallahassee U.S. District judge on Thursday found that a new Florida law -- which restricts race-based conversation and analysis in business and education -- is ‘impermissibly vague’ and unconstitutional.
It’s a ruling in just one of three lawsuits that are challenging the law officially titled the “Individual Freedom Act,” (referred to by sponsors as the “Stop WOKE Act”) on behalf of plaintiffs in the realms of private industry, higher education and K-12 schools.
A coalition of college professors and students files a suit Thursday, claiming the law equates to “racially motivated censorship” meant to stifle discussion.
A third group, this one comprised of K-12 teachers and a student, claims that the law violates the Constitution’s protections of free expression, academic freedom and access to information in public schools.
Judge Mark Walker determined that the law, as applied to diversity, inclusion and bias training in businesses, turns the First Amendment “upside down” because the state is barring speech by prohibiting discussion of certain concepts in training programs.
“In short, the IFA does not target trainings because they are mandatory; the IFA targets trainings because of the speech delivered at them,” the judge wrote.
“You can’t just make an overarching law that completely limits speech, especially when it pertains to something that is content-based,” said Lauren Prater, a local attorney. “You’d have to make the law very narrowly tailored and very specific so people know how to apply it.”
In his ruling Thursday, Judge Walker did not include a stay, which would have kept the law in effect during any appeal by the state.
The Governor’s attorneys can, and likely will, appeal the judge’s decision. In the meantime, the section of the law dealing with diversity training in the workplace is no longer in effect.