FLORIDA’S Repubican State Representative Alex Andrade, above, a buddy of Florida’s unhinged Governor Ron (“Don’t Say Gay”) DeSantis, wants to make it easier for zealots to sue media outlets and individuals who brand them bigots.
Acting on a suggestion from DeSantis—notorious for hate speech and actions aimed at members of LGBT+ communities—Andrade this week introduced an anti-defamation bill, H.B. 991, that would make it easier for religious people to sue those who call them out as homophobic or transphobic.
Andrade, who has worked to pass “conservative, pro-military, pro-life and small government legislation,” said that the bill does not just apply to mainstream news—it applies to other forms of publishing as well, including social media.
According to LGBTQNation the bill specifically says that publications can’t use truth as a defence when it comes to reporting on people’s anti-LGBTQ+ views by citing the person’s “constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs” or “a plaintiff’s scientific beliefs.”
The bill isn’t limited to professional journalists in scope—it affects anyone in public, including people on social media.
Image via YouTube
Transgender Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo, above, called the bill “absolutely chilling.” She noted on Twitter:
If someone calls you a faggot or tranny and you say they discriminated against you, they can now sue you for at least $35k and cite their religious beliefs. This would apply to the internet as well. This would empower bigots to target the LGBTQ community with impunity.
Others noted that the bill violates federal free speech protections and would be struck down if passed.
First Amendment lawyer Barry Chase added:
If [H.B. 991] is not struck down, my wife and I are moving to Portugal.
Writing for LGBTQNation, Alex Bollinger pointed out that under current law, someone suing for defamation has to prove that the defamation hurt their reputation.
H.B. 991 does away with that burden of proof. Statements “that the plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes defamation per se.”
Bolliger added that If someone calls DeSantis transphobic for, say, holding a ceremony at a Christian school on the first day of Pride Month to sign a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports, they wouldn’t have to show that the accusation hurt his reputation anymore in order to win his suit.
Being accused of transphobia would be considered damaging in and of itself.
In other words, it’s the legal version of conservatives’ belief that accusing someone of racism is worse than being racist.Alex Bolliger, LGBTQNation
H.B. 991 would also states that a plaintiff in a case automatically wins attorney’s fees if they win their trial, no matter how little money they’re awarded by a jury. This is to encourage more lawsuits to be filed.
The bill also says that statements from an anonymous source must be presumed false when it comes to defamation cases, making it harder for media outlets to publish statements from whistleblowers.
Lastly, the bill says that a plaintiff’s religious or “scientific” beliefs can’t be used to prove that they’re anti-LGBTQ+.
Andrade is quoted as saying:
Journalists are seeing this as something that only applies to them, but this applies across the board.
Donald Trump is another major Republican who supports making it easier for people to sue if they don’t like what is said about them in the media. When running for President in 2016, he said that he would “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue.
Yesterday I reported on a book-burning bill co-sponsored by two members of Congress—serial liar and drag queen George Santos (New York) and far-right secessionist Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia).
Bill HR 863 designed to prohibit publishers from “furnishing sexually explicit material” to public schools or educational agencies.
Whether passed or not, these two bills demonstrate a horrifying escalation in the US of attacks on freedom of expression by Christian nationalists hellbent on creating a theocracy.
If Barry Chase is compelled to move to Portugal he will be entering a liberal democracy, where there are no major restrictions on personal social freedoms.
The Catholic Church, which dominated the lives of its citizens until the collapse of its authoritarian regime in 1974, is now practically a spent force. Though the vast majority of Portuguese identify as Roman Catholic (81 percent), most consider themselves as non-practicing.
Portugal legalised same-sex marriage in 2010 and extended adoption rights to same-sex couples in 2015. A 2018 law eliminated the need for transgender people to obtain a medical certificate to formally change their gender or first name.
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