Another blatantly unconstitutional bill against the First Amendment – HB 991 Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likenesses – is being heard in the House Civil Justice Committee on Tuesday and we need you to OPPOSE it. This bill, aka the “Empower Bigots Act” is fast-tracked for approval with only two assigned committees of reference. It is DeSantis’ way of protecting his thin skin by using the courts to punish journalists and anyone else who criticizes him or other government figures-- even online bloggers and others who post on social media a single time.
If accused of discrimination (e.g. race, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity) – even if it is true – public officials can claim “defamation per se,” and fall back on a defense of protected religious expression or beliefs.
Bigotry would be legally protected.
Any utilization of an anonymous source by the press would be presumed false, which means reporters would no longer have the legal right to keep their sources confidential. We would never have had the Watergate scandal uncovered if this were the case in 1973.
If the public official wins the legal case, s/he would be awarded statutory damages of at least $35,000 in addition to other damages. But if the journalist or blogger wins the case, s/he would need to cover their own legal expenses. This uses fear of financial retribution through the courts to ensure silence of the masses.
This bill is clearly intended to eventually win a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn another landmark case, the 1964 New York Times Co. v. Sullivan ruling that has protected journalists for almost 60 years, but two conservative SCOTUS justices (Gorsuch and Thomas) said they would like to “revisit.”
This bill chills free speech by taking away our right to criticize government officials. Furthermore, bigotry is protected by claiming it aligns with one’s religion or beliefs. This is the kind of Orwellian stuff that the Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban espouses, and that is now embraced by his devotees in the Florida Republican Party. Unbelievable.
Contact the legislators below TODAY in the House Civil Justice Committee and tell them to VOTE NO on this anti-American bill. Then shout from the rooftops to let others know that DeSantis and his legislative puppets are working feverishly to destroy democracy and they have the power to change it through their votes.
William Cloud "Will" Robinson. Jr. (R), Chair (850) 717-5071 John Snyder (R), Vice Chair (850) 717-5086 Kristen Aston Arrington (D) (850) 717-5046 Mile Beltran (R) (850) 717-5070 Dean Adam Black (R) (850) 717-5015 Daryl Campbell (D) (850) 717-5099 Kimberly Daniels (D) (850) 717-5014 Ashley Viola Gantt (D) (850) 717-5109 Johanna "Joy" Lopez (D) (850) 717-5043 Randall Scott "Randy" Maggard (R) (850) 717-5054 Patt Maney (R) (850) 717-5004 Fiona McFarland R) (850) 717-5073 Kiyan Michael (R) (850) 717-5016 Toby Overdorf (R) (850) 717-5085 Alex Rizo (R) (850) 717-5112 Rick Roth (R) (850) 717-5094 Tyler I. Sirois (R) (850) 717-5031 Will.Robinson@myfloridahouse.gov; John.Snyder@myfloridahouse.gov; Kristen.Arrington@myfloridahouse.gov; Mike.Beltran@myfloridahouse.gov; Dean.Black@myfloridahouse.gov; Daryl.Campbell@myfloridahouse.gov; Kimberly.Daniels@myfloridahouse.gov; Ashley.Gantt@myfloridahouse.gov; Johanna.Lopez@myfloridahouse.gov; Randy.Maggard@myfloridahouse.gov; Patt.Maney@myfloridahouse.gov; Fiona.McFarland@myfloridahouse.gov; Kiyan.Michael@myfloridahouse.gov; Toby.Overdorf@myfloridahouse.gov; Alex.Rizo@myfloridahouse.gov; Rick.Roth@myfloridahouse.gov; Tyler.Sirois@myfloridahouse.gov Thank you, Jean Siebenaler LEGISLATIVE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC WOMEN'S CLUB OF FLORIDA CITRUS:
Tallahassee #: (850) 717-5034
District #: (352) 527-4510
Florida State House - District 23
State Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R)
Tallahassee #: (850) 487-5011
District #: (352) 666-5707
Florida Senate District 11