TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida has issued a preliminary injunction preventing the “Quit the Wake Act” from being enforced in higher education, siding with plaintiffs on issues related to speech and the First Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker previously blocked other parts of the law in separate cases and did not deny anything in his ruling, preventing one of the laws signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis from taking effect.
“In this case, the State of Florida is laying the cornerstone of its own Ministry of Truth under the guise of the Individual Freedom Act, declaring which viewpoints must be orthodox and which must be banned from university classrooms,” Judge Walker wrote.
Walker said the First Amendment protects professors’ classroom speech and that the provisions of the “Stop the Wake Act” are too vague to be enforced.
“Florida State has taken on the ‘marketplace of ideas’ to suppress dissenting viewpoints and limit where professors can cover eight specific ideas,” Walker wrote. “And the defendants’ arguments do not allow the State of Florida’s authority to extend its viewpoint restrictions to any idea it chooses.”
Walker summed up his decision to grant a preliminary injunction this way:
One thing is absolutely clear—both robust intellectual inquiry and democracy require light to thrive. Our professors are critical to a healthy democracy,70 and Florida State’s decision to choose which viewpoints are worth highlighting and which should remain in the shadows has consequences for all of us. If our “priests of democracy” are not allowed to shed light on complex ideas, then democracy will die in darkness.71 But the First Amendment does not allow the state of Florida to silence its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all in the dark.
The American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the decision, calling it “an important victory for the right of teachers and students to teach and learn without censorship or discrimination.”
“This is a huge victory for everyone who values academic freedom and recognizes the value of inclusive education,” Emerson Sykes, senior attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a release. “The First Amendment broadly protects our right to exchange information and ideas, and that includes the right of faculty and students to learn about, debate, and discuss systemic racism and sexism.”
The Board of Governors of the Florida State University System declined to comment on the ruling, saying, “It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”
Governor DeSantis’ office did not comment on the judge’s decision.
Read the full text of the decision below: