A Florida judge blocked Ron DeSantis's Stope WOKE Act for colleges, calling it a 'positively dystopian' violation of free speech

A Florida judge blocked Ron DeSantis's Stope WOKE Act for colleges, calling it a 'positively dystopian' violation of free speech
Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis takes to the stage to debate his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Oct. 24, 2022.Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com/Associated Press, Pool, File
  • A Florida judge on Thursday blocked part of the Stop WOKE Act that restricted race-related speech on campus.
  • The judge said part of the law, which was backed by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, violated the First Amendment.

A federal judge with the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Thursday blocked part of the Stop WOKE Act, which was endorsed and signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, that sought to restrict certain speech on college campuses in the state.

Chief US District Judge Mark Walker's 138-page order described Florida's attempt to censor certain viewpoints related to race and gender as "positively dystopian" and said it violated free speech.

The bill, signed into law in April, would limit how schools and workplaces discuss race and gender, as well as the way private companies conduct diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

In blocking the part of the law that applied to college professors, students, and even guest speakers, Walker said "the State of Florida has taken over the 'marketplace of ideas' to suppress disfavored viewpoints and limit where professors may shine their light on eight specific ideas."

"Our professors are critical to a healthy democracy, and the State of Florida's decision to choose which viewpoints are worthy of illumination and which must remain in the shadows has implications for us all. If our 'priests of democracy' are not allowed to shed light on challenging ideas, then democracy will die in darkness," Walker wrote. "But the First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark."


DeSantis's press office told Insider it planned to appeal the decision.

"This recent ruling included several victories for our legal team. We expect many more and ultimately to prevail in this litigation," press secretary Bryan Griffin said. "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 to prevent Florida's students and employees from being subjected to discriminatory classroom instruction or mandated discriminatory workplace training."

He added that the law "protects the open exchange of ideas by prohibiting teachers or employers who hold agency over others from forcing discriminatory concepts on students as part of classroom instruction or on employees as a condition of maintaining employment."

Judge Walker previously suspended enforcement of another part of the law that impacted companies with 15 employees or more, also dismissing it as a violation of free speech.