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Federal judge blocks part of Florida's 'Stop WOKE' Act

A federal judge on Thursday suspended Florida’s Individual Freedom Act, likening the legislation passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the TV series "Stranger Things." File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/4d528a4ad36621d03c07dc26c19a3f5c/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A federal judge on Thursday suspended Florida’s Individual Freedom Act, likening the legislation passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the TV series "Stranger Things." File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Thursday suspended part of Florida's Individual Freedom Act, likening the legislation to the TV series Stranger Things.

The ruling now blocks parts of the law barring companies from providing workplace bias training.

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"In the popular television series Stranger Things, the 'upside down' describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down," Northern District of Florida Tallahassee Division Judge Mark Walker wrote in his ruling.

The legislation is commonly referred to as the Stop WOKE Act, and "impermissibly burdens such speech," the judge wrote.

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The act was passed in March and limits what companies and educators can say, train or teach when it comes to racial issues, particularly Critical Race Theory.

"Florida's Legislators may well find Plaintiffs' speech 'repugnant.' But under our constitutional scheme, the 'remedy' for repugnant speech 'is more speech, not enforced silence,'" Walker wrote in his ruling.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, the Legal Defense Fund and a national law firm. It argues the law amounts to censorship and is motivated by racism.

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Walker has blocked multiple laws signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely," Walker wrote in the ruling.

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case. But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

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Neither DeSantis nor the Florida Department of Education had issued a public comment on the ruling by 6 pm ET Thursday.

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