Overruling first amendment rights to expression?
On May 16 Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into state law, which prohibits protesting outside of homes.
With the signing of HB1571 - the residential picketing bill - it is now illegal for people to protest outside the homes of others without their permission. It's intended to prevent situations such as those that have arisen recently where protestors gathered outside the homes of U.S. supreme court justices in anticipation of Roe Vs. Wade being overturned.
The governor's motivations for signing the bill were outlined in a prepared statement on his official website:
“Sending unruly mobs to private residences, like we have seen with the angry crowds in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices, is inappropriate. This bill will provide protection to those living in residential communities and I am glad to sign it into law."
Is it constitutional?
There are suggestions however, that in denying Floridians and Americans the right to freely express themselves and assemble peacefully, that the new law could in fact be a violation of the constitutional first amendment.
Whether this proves to be the case or not, remains to be seen but it could at the very least be used as a justification for protestors who are moved on or arrested under the new law. The governor is keen that other constitutional rights are preserved in the state, including the right to bear arms, so this challenge may be material.
Only last week, a protest was held outside the State Capitol to bring public attention to the state's shortage of nurses.
While the Capitol isn't a private residence of course, the protest seems to have been successful given that on Monday May 16 the governor announced $125 million of state funding to address the lack of nurses in the state. The types of protest held outside private residences can be intimidating for those living there and that's likely to be part of what motivates those who protest in this way.
As such, the law may be a means of ensuring that protests are properly organized and can be policed appropriately in public spaces. There will be those of course who believe that this is evidence of overreach by the governor and represents actions more commonly associated with communist regimes who attempt to control what citizens do and say. It's ironic then, that the governor spent much of last week talking about the establishment of 'Victims of Communism Day' in Florida!
The effects of this new law remain to be seen.
Are you in favor of laws that determine what Floridians can do and say? Do you think it's an overreach of control by Governor DeSantis? Let me know in the comments section below.