SB 1780 Would Stop Delray’s Nick Coppola From Crying Homophobia

In 2021, when I ran for mayor of Delray Beach, I had an argument with an obnoxious local, called him a girl, and quickly got labeled as a homophobe. My bad luck: the guy turned out to be gay, which was, therefore, proof of my homophobia, and I was an evil Trumpette bigot. During that election, I also got accused of being a racist and an antisemite by then commissioner and now candidate Juli Casale. But I had to live with it because I signed up for this kind of thing when I filed to run. Once you are running for office, you’re a public figure, subject to the same level of abusive name-calling elected officials are subjected to every single day. Two people who wrongly labeled me are running for office in Delray Beach right now, ironically against each other, and the nonsense hasn’t stopped. Nick Coppola, an LGBTQUIA+ activist and former contractor, is running in a three-way race with none other than former commissioner Juli Casale, who got hammered during her re-election against now Commissioner Rob Long, and Anneze Barthelemy, a social worker, public advocate, and conservative. Coppola has wrongly accused Barthelemy of being a homophobe. Even though he knows the accusations against her aren’t true, there’s been no apology, and she has to live with the stain of his accusation. Barthelemy, a devout Haitian Christian, has too much class to hit Coppola back by calling him a racist.

Currently, there are no repercussions for name-calling and general bad behavior, as it should be because we live in a free country, and that means living with being insulted sometimes. As messed up as cancel culture is, I’ll defend anyone’s right to say whatever they feel like saying because I believe in free speech. But a new proposed Florida Senate Bill, SB 1780, mainly aimed at journalists, would make it easier to sue if accused of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia.

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Recent statistics shown on Fox News show that as many as 97 percent of journalists are Democrats. With just a measly 3 percent being Republicans, Republican politicians are the ones who are usually on the other end of the name-calling, and based on personal experience, I can understand the feeling of wanting a bill that punishes people, given how many of the accusations are false. But free speech makes this bill, in my opinion, impossible to support. If you’re in office or even a candidate for office, you become a public figure, making it practically impossible to fend off damaging potential reputation-destroying statements and accusations. 

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According to USA Today:

Under “Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likenesses” (SB 1780), filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary, practically all accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia would be considered “defamation per se,” making speakers presumptively at fault and leaving them liable for damages of at least $35,000 and court costs — for what may currently be constitutionally protected speech.

Brodeur tried to pass a similar bill in 2023, but it died in committee. The new bill seeks to make the terms of what “malice” entails more clear and will include social media posts. Although the bill’s intent is understandable, passing a bill like this is a slippery slope that will lead to controlling who gets to say what and which people are off limits. If you’re in or running for office, some will love you, and others will hate you. Although I’m sick of people like Coppola screaming homophobia just because he can, I’ll defend his right to do it. I, in turn, get to write about it and not be punished for it either. Either way, this bill is a hard no for me. 

Other stories you may want to read:

Anneze Barthelemy Brings Vision of Affordability, Unity to Delray

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