Florida’s new anti-gay bill aims to limit and punish protected free speech (The Guardian)

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    Florida’s new anti-gay bill aims to limit and punish protected free speech – By Adria R Walker (The Guardian) / Feb 2, 2024

    SB 1780 would make it defamation to accuse someone of homophobia, transphobia, racism or sexism and punishable by fine

    By day two of Florida’s legislative session, which started last month, lawmakers had introduced nearly 20 anti-gay or anti-trans bills. One such bill, SB 1780, would make accusing someone of being homophobic, transphobic, racist or sexist, even if the accusation is true, equivalent to defamation, and punishable by a fine of at least $35,000. If passed, the bill would severely limit and punish constitutionally protected free speech in the state.

    Though SB 1780 is not likely to survive past higher courts, its introduction is indicative of a wider conservative strategy to stifle criticism of racist, sexist and homophobic behavior. The bill, critics argue, is being introduced to test the waters and see how far, legally, lawmakers can go until they are able to silence detractors.

    “That’s the pattern here in Florida,” said Sharon Austin, a professor of political science at the University of Florida. “They introduce a bill that many of us find to be really extreme. When we start to protest, eventually they take out some of the provisions and sort of water it down a little bit, but in the end it ends up getting passed.”

    Austin notes that similar bills, such as SB 266, which severely limits diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and HB7, “the stop woke act”, which regulates how race and race issues can be taught in schools, were ultimately passed after lawmakers made the bills slightly less extreme.

    CONTINUE > https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/feb/01/florida-anti-gay-bill-free-speech-defamation

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