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DeSantis’s war on woke suffers legal losses and backlash – Baptist News Global

DeSantis’s war on woke suffers legal losses and backlash – Baptist News Global
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“In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces,” declared Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. GOP legislators embraced his culture war agenda, passing bills restricting drag shows and Critical Race theory that fueled his presidential campaign.

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But that campaign ended in January, and his war on woke is now facing growing pushback and legal defeats, according to reporting from NPR, the Washington Post and other outlets.

Here are highlights of many recent developments.

The Stop WOKE Act restricted how private companies could teach employees about workplace diversity and inclusion. Florida-based companies sued the state, and last month a federal appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, saying was it guilty of “the greatest First Amendment sin” for penalizing certain viewpoints, and calling the law “positively dystopian.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a bill signing in Tampa May 17. (Photo courtesy of governor’s office)

The Parental Rights in Education Act, which was called “Don’t Say Gay” for the ways it restricted classroom teaching, remains in effect but a legal settlement restricts the law’s application, insuring that it can’t be used against LGBTQ people.

There’s also been a settlement in DeSantis’ long-running battle against Disney, the state’s biggest employer, which offended the governor by speaking out against the Don’t Say Gay bill.

DeSantis retaliated by trying to dismantle the special tax district that managed Walt Disney World, which led Disney to sue the state for restricting its right to free speech and harming its business prospects. The settlement ends all state litigation, but the state lost out on a planned expansion that Disney canceled amid the dispute.

Courts also have blocked two other DeSantis bills: one banning gender-affirming care for minors, another restricting access to drag shows.

Florida may appeal some of these rulings, but DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda is facing further pushback in an unexpected place — the Florida statehouse.

A series of proposed bills have been rejected or slowed, including legislation that would:

  • Prohibit state agencies from using transgender pronouns
  • Require drivers to use their sex assigned at birth on driver licenses
  • Punish local officials who oversee the removal of Confederate monuments.

The legislature also denied the governor a bigger budget to fly immigrants to other states.

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What’s behind the lack of support? Some suggest voters are exhausted with the culture wars and wish their representatives would focus instead on practical challenges, including state home and auto insurance rates that are three times the national average.

Some suggest voters are exhausted with the culture wars and wish their representatives would focus instead on practical challenges, including state home and auto insurance rates that are three times the national average.

Others suggest the failure of DeSantis’ presidential run has helped cool the earlier ardor.

Some Floridians are frustrated with the lax morals of the state’s moral crusaders. As BNG reported in December, a founder of the Florida-based book-banning group Moms for Liberty was involved in three-way sexual liaisons with another woman and her husband, Christian, who was removed from his job as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida after the scandal blew up.

Moms for Liberty has helped Florida ban more books than another state, inspiring an opposing group called Moms for Libros, which opposes censorship.

The battle over abortion also is heating up in a state that’s home to some of the country’s most restrictive laws. In November, voters will vote on access to abortion. DeSantis previously backed a “fetal personhood” law that was not enacted.

DeSantis did get one recent victory: He signed legislation that restricts social media access for children under 14 and restricts access to pornographic websites.

DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda remains popular with white evangelicals and organizations like Focus on the Family, which hosted DeSantis on its namesake radio program in June 2022 as the governor ran for reelection.

“You’re like a man’s man,” said program host and Focus CEO Jim Daly. “I’m watching you on the news or watching the many bills that you’ve signed that support the things we believe in at Focus on the Family. It does seem to have like a military precision to it.”

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Focus on the Family’s Florida affiliate, the Florida Family Policy Council, works closely with DeSantis and in 2023 awarded him its William Wilberforce Award, which honors “elected officials who stand firm on principle in the face of severe opposition.”



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