PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—Florida Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled on June 27 that the state can enforce the “Stop Woke Act”—but did not rule on its constitutionality, nor a piece affecting colleges and universities.
The judge, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2012 and became chief justice in 2018, ruled that HB 7—or what Gov. Ron DeSantis branded as the “Stop Woke Act”—can move forward and regulate how race can be taught in the classroom and the workplace.
The new law is part of DeSantis’ education agenda that targets ties to Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the state school system as well as corporate training at companies surrounding “white privilege.”
The governor’s press secretary Christina Pushaw said DeSantis is not “planning to comment on the ruling,” but she said, “generally … we are confident that this law will ultimately survive all legal challenges and protect Floridians from the harmful effects of discriminatory woke ideology.”
In past press conferences DeSantis has said he did not want children to be taught now to “hate one another.”
The ruling by Walker gives DeSantis a win, as the judge has frequently ruled against him, allowing the law to move forward—but made it clear that he was not ruling on the constitutionality of the law nor was his decision an endorsement of the law.
“This court is not determining whether the challenged regulations are constitutional, morally correct, or good policy,” Walker wrote in his ruling. “And this order should not be interpreted as endorsing the [legislation] or the related Board of Education regulation.”
In March, lawmakers passed HB 7 after strong debate on both house floors.
After the governor signed the measure a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit on April 22 claiming that it violated First Amendment rights. They also contested rules by the State Board of Education that banned the use of CRT.
The judge said that four of the plaintiffs “lacked legal standing” to obtain a preliminary injunction.