A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that a temporary block on a portion of a law pushed by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis restricting what can be taught in Florida’s public colleges and universities will remain in place.
The three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the DeSantis administration and officials with the state university system to stay an injunction from US District Judge Mark Walker, who called the law “positively dystopian” in a 138-page order, while the case plays out.
Last April, DeSantis signed into law Florida’s Individual Freedom Act, better known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” but it has faced a number of legal challenges since taking effect on July 1. The law is a key component of DeSantis’ war on “woke ideology,” and was intended to prevent teachings or mandatory workplace activities that suggest a person is privileged or oppressed based necessarily on their race, color, sex or national origin.
With the law, Walker wrote in November that Florida “lays the cornerstone of its own Ministry of Truth under the guise of the Individual Freedom Act” – invoking George Orwell’s novel, “1984.”
“The Court did not rule on the merits of our appeal. The appeal is ongoing, and we remain confident that the law is constitutional,” DeSantis’ spokesman Bryan Griffin said in a statement.
The Legal Defense Fund, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, celebrated the decision.
“Institutions of higher education in Florida should have the ability to provide a quality education, which simply cannot happen when students and educators, including Black students and educators, feel they cannot speak freely about their lived experiences, or when they feel that they may incur a politician’s wrath for engaging in a fact-based discussion of our history,” Alexsis Johnson, assistant counsel of The Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement.
Opponents of the law are fighting it on three fronts: the law’s effects on K-12, higher education and employers.
Last August, Walker granted an injunction filed by two Florida-based employers, who wanted to require diversity and inclusion trainings for staff, and a consultant who provides such training. Walker at the time called the law “upside down” when it comes to the First Amendment because it allows the state to burden freedom of speech.
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Sabrina Clay, Nicquel Terry Ellis, Steve Contorno and Kit Maher contributed to this report.