Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday allowing for the death penalty for child rapists, setting up a potential Supreme Court challenge.
The bill, which will become law Oct. 1, makes sexual battery of a person under 12 a capital crime.
DeSantis, a likely 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has sought to project a law-and-order message as he tries to take Florida's policies to a national audience. In a statement announcing the bill’s signing, DeSantis touted his "tough-on-crime policies."
"We think that in the worst of the worst cases, the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment, and so this bill sets up a procedure to be able to challenge that precedent," DeSantis said at a Monday news conference in Titusville, Florida, speaking behind a podium with a sign that said "Law & Order."
The bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the Florida House and Senate, is the state's second change to death penalty policy in recent months. In April, DeSantis signed a bill that lowered the threshold of jurors needed to recommend the death penalty from 12 to eight.
The bill signed Monday goes against a 2008 Supreme Court decision preventing states from imposing the death penalty for child rape if the victim does not die. At the time, a coalition of social workers and organizations opposing sexual violence had supported the court's decision, arguing that making child sexual abuse a capital punishment would leave victims more reluctant to name their abusers and increase the incentives for child rapists to kill their victims.
In a statement, DeSantis said he is prepared to "take this law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court," charging judicial precedents with "unjustly" shielding child rapists from the death penalty.