With the United States Supreme Court sharply divided today during oral arguments over the so-called “gay wedding cake” case, State Representative and candidate for Attorney General Jay Fant (R – Jacksonville) proposed legislation to protect the free speech rights of businesses from government force.
“The case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear today should make small businesses in Florida and everywhere worry about just how far government is allowed to go to regulate the free speech of private industry,” said Fant in a news release about the legislation. “I filed the ‘Free Enterprise Protection Act’ today to ensure that Florida business owners are protected from government sanctions and penalties when they are exercising their first amendment rights, whether through their speech or their work as an artisan, as in the case of the wedding cake baker.”
According to the release, Fant says the government should not force business owners to create things they do not want to create. But it’s unclear how the United States Supreme Court might rule on the matter. Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared conflicted over the issue, appearing bothered at one point when the attorney for the Trump Administration answered a question from the justice about whether or not the bake shop could post a sign in the window declaring “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings.”
When the attorney said such a side would be permissible if they cakes were custom made, Kennedy appeared troubled and suggested this would be an affront to gay couples. But later, Kennedy made it clear he did not believe a state civil rights commission that had ruled against the baker had “neither been tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs.”
Fant says enough is enough. “The more and more regulations that are handed down from government, the less and less freedom we have. The ‘Free Enterprise Protection Act’ would guarantee government cannot act in a discriminatory way toward a business by using their force through the assessment of taxes, penalties or any other means to bankrupt or harm a business when they are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
According to the release, the “Free Enterprise Protection Act” protects Florida businesses from the following discriminatory actions by government:
- Cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against a business entity;
- Deny, delay, or revoke a business entity’s exemption from taxation or other tax benefit;
- Withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, deny, or otherwise make unavailable to a business entity any grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, bond issue, license, certification, or other similar opportunity, position, or status; or
- Withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, deny, or otherwise make unavailable to a business entity access or an entitlement to property, facilities, speech forums, including traditional, limited, and nonpublic forums, or charitable fundraising campaigns.
- Because of the business entity’s exercise of a right guaranteed under the state or federal constitutions, including, but not limited to, the rights of freedom of expression and free exercise of religion.