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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Fla. Pushes Steep Penalties for Defaming Someone as ‘Racist,’ ‘Sexist,’ ‘Homophobic’

'I believe it will introduce a whole new Wild West of litigation...'

(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) A new bill introduced Friday in the Florida state senate could lower the standards of defamation in the instance that someone is called “racist,” “sexist,” “transphobic” or “homophobic,” ZeroHedge reported.

Senate Bill 1780, proposed by state Sen. Jason Brodeur, would amend the state code pertaining to “Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likeness.” A parallel bill is also being debated in the Florida state House under the title HB 757.

If the bill, as written, were to clear the GOP-led legislature and become law, unfounded accusations of homophobia, racism, etc., could lead to fines of at least $35,000, provided the plaintiff can prove they are false and caused material harm.

According to the bill, “an allegation that the plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes defamation per se.”

The bill would also take a more stringent approach toward journalists who relied on anonymous sources for their reporting.

Morever, it would seek to narrow the definition of “public figure,” for which there is typically a higher threshold required to meet the legal definition of defamation. In the case of public figures, the law stipulates that the alleged defamer must have demonstrated a clear intent to harm the victim, often referred to as “actual malice.”

Under Florida’s new law, non-elected or appointed public employees would not be considered public figures. Moreover “individuals who became publicly known for defending themselves against accusations” would also be considered private citizens.

Thus, a person like George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, might have been able to sue former President Barack Obama and much of the mainstream media for insinuating that he had racist motives.

More recently, such allegations have been used to smear the Florida-based parental-rights group Moms for Liberty.

A recent report confirmed that the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center had consulted with the Biden administration prior to adding Moms for Liberty to its controversial “hate map,” which resulted in a barrage of media attacks—and literal attacks—ahead of the group’s nationwide convention last summer.

Headline USA reached out to Moms for Liberty via email as to how the proposed Florida legislation might support their advocacy efforts and will update with any response.

Bobby Block, executive director of the left-leaning First Amendment Foundation, told the Tallahassee Democrat that the bill, if it became law, would cause legal chaos.

“I believe it will introduce a whole new Wild West of litigation,” Block fretted. “This is about intimidating free speech, chilling free speech and silencing critics.”

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