A federal judge in Florida has blocked part of the state's "Stop WOKE Act," a law that restricts how companies and schools discuss race.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in April. The bill, House Bill 7, would limit race-based teachings in schools and regulate how private companies handle mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion training, Business Insider reports.
Under House Bill 7, companies with 15 or more employees could face civil lawsuits if they violate the law.
But this week, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker suspended the employer part of the law, saying it violated free speech.
"In the popular television series 'Stranger Things,' the 'upside down' describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world," Walker, a nominee of then-President Barack Obama, wrote in his opinion. "Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down.
"Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely," Walker continued. "But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely."
DeSantis said when he signed the bill that it was meant to stop what he called "indoctrination" and that "no one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race."
The law specifically targets "critical race theory," the controversial notion that racism in U.S. institutions stems from slavery and the Jim Crow era.
A recent lawsuit claimed that Florida's law infringed on workplace-training programs about diversity and inclusion. Plaintiffs included Honefund.com, a Florida honeymoon-registry company; Primo Tamp, a Ben & Jerry's franchise; and Collective Concepts, a workplace-diversity consulting firm.
"We look forward to proceeding to trial, winning, and seeing this law permanently overturned," said Shalini Goel Agarwal, counsel at Protect Democracy, one of the law firms representing plaintiffs in the case. "It is a direct attack on American free-speech values as well as on free enterprise in Florida."
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.