MIAMI – An anti-defamation bill by a Florida Republican threatens free speech by penalizing individuals and the media for overtly calling someone a racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic including government officials.

The bill can impact African Americans and the gay community and conceivably changes the landscape of protests in fighting for equality and against discrimination acts in government, workplaces and social gatherings.

Senate Bill 1780 which is called the Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likeness Act, cleared its first hurdle in a Senate committee meeting during the Legislative Session and a House version of the bill is scheduled for a hearing this week.

The bill also penalizes journalists accused of publishing defamation and false information, opening them up to lawsuits and fines.

Critics say the bill, which was filed by Lake Mary Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur, is just another example of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies’ Cultural Wars that target Blacks and the LGBTQ+ community, and also banning DEI programs in public colleges and textbooks, some on Black literature.

They also said the bill is a violation of the U.S. Constitution for freedom of speech and could draw more lawsuits against DeSantis’ Cultural Wars, which political analysts suggest dommed his struggling presidential campaign.

He dropped out of the race after losing by a wide margin in the Iowa Caucus to the GOP front runner, former President Donald Trump.

The anti-defamation bill, if passed, would no longer protect people under freedom of speech and individuals could be held liable if plaintiffs bring legal action against them and may be awarded more than $35,000 in damages.

Defendants would also pay all court costs for both sides in lawsuits.

The proposed law may discourage people from taking a stand against racism and discrimination.

"The bill is a direct violation of people being free to speak," said Danny Johnson, a local political science major who was in Tallahassee to discuss his opposition to prohibiting DEI programs. "This is something that’s preventing us from speaking out against racism, and if we do we get punished. It’s not far."

Broduer’s bill extends to statements about racism and other defamation comments made in the T.V., radio, print digital media and social media, stripping away journalists’ privileges of their rights for free speech and freedom of the press that are protected under the U.S. Constitution.

Opponents of the bill indicated it could dampen the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., marched for racial equality for Blacks and Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, Alabama which led to a nationwide boycott.

NAACP South Dade Branch President Harold Ford said the proposed law is insulting, misleading and a violation of people’s Constitutional rights.

"How do we turn our backs on it and ignore those who are conducting vile practices of racism? This bill is part of the many attempts by the Florida Legislature and the governor to set us back at a time when racism was much more prominent in our society," Ford said.

Ford said the NAACP will take some kind of action if the bill is passed, possibly similar to the travel advisory it issued last year warning Blacks visiting Florida about the Republican-led laws targeting them.

"This is on the front line of actionable items and we will discuss plans on moving forward and dealing with the matter and what the next step will be," he said. "Best believe there will be some action taken."

Dr. Marvin Dunn, psychology professor emeritus at Florida International University and longtime social justice advocate, said such a law could create quite a stir in the Black community and take away African Americans’ right to address racism and discrimination in peaceful protests.

Despite the law, Dunn, who’s been the victim of alleged racism over the years said it will not discourage him from exercising his right for free speech.

"I plan to test the law all the way to the Supreme Court," he said. "I will run the risk of being penalized because I’m not intimidated. It will encourage me to speak more."