In what could very clearly become the slipperiest of slopes, a bill introduced in the Florida Senate would make calling someone ‘transphobic’ , ‘homophobic’ , racist, or sexist a form of defamation.
Introduced on Friday, SB 1780 “Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likeness,” would make it easier for people to sue each other for defamation.
According to the bill, “an allegation that the plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes defamation per se,” which means that even when said allegations are false, they are automatically defamatory – meaning that anyone accused of said ‘isms’ wouldn’t have to prove “actual malice,” a higher standard set for defamation suits following a 1964 Supreme Court case, New York Times vs. Sullivan.
In instances where someone is accused of homophobia or transphobia, defendants charged with defamation wouldn’t be allowed to use the plaintiff’s religious or scientific beliefs as part of their defense, and could face fines of at least $35,000.
The bill, which has a counterpart in the Florida House (HB 757), would also significantly narrow the definition of “public figure” in defamation lawsuits to exclude non-elected or appointed public employees, as well as individuals who became publicly known for defending themselves against accusations – either by giving interviews or being the subject of a viral “video, image, or statement uploaded on the Internet,” CBS News reports.
The bill also weakens protections for anonymous sources for journalists – and classifies their statements as “presumptively false,” making journalists vulnerable to lawsuits.
As Not the Bee notes, if passed, the law would not require actual malice to be proved for:
- A person made famous solely from a video or pictures uploaded to the internet.
- Statements made by a person defending their reputation.
- Granting an interview on a subject.
And just to be safe, the law also redefines when a famous person can claim actual malice. It says that judges should infer that statements are actually malicious when:
- The source of the claim is unidentified and anonymous.
- The allegation is fabricated solely in the imagination of the defendant.
- The allegation is so implausible that only a reckless person would put it into circulation.
- There are obvious reasons to doubt the veracity of the report.
- The defendant willfully failed to validate or corroborate the claim.
And finally, the law carves out protections for religion and science.
- A defendant cannot prove the truth of an allegation of discrimination with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity by citing a plaintiff’s constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs.
- A defendant cannot prove the truth of an allegation of discrimination with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity by citing a plaintiff’s scientific beliefs.
Of course, as the Bee‘s ‘Mister Retrops’ notes: “While I appreciate the law as a worthy effort to deal with these legal loopholes the Left is employing to attack anyone they see as a standing in the way of “real communism,” one has to wonder if there’s anything in this law that would keep it from being used as a cudgel of the Left.”
To read a thorough breakdown of what’s going on, click here.