Published on November 17, 2023, 4:01 am

Divided U.S. Supreme Court Denies Request to Enforce Law Against Drag Shows in Florida

In a divided decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request from Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration to enforce a new state law aimed at preventing children from attending drag shows. This decision comes after U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell issued a statewide preliminary injunction against the law, stating that it violated First Amendment rights.

The law, called the “Protection of Children Act,” would prohibit venues from admitting children to adult live performances that depict or simulate nudity, sexual conduct, lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts. It also allows regulators to suspend or revoke licenses of establishments that violate this law and prohibits local governments from issuing public permits for events that may expose children to such behavior.

While the law does not specifically mention drag shows, it was enacted following crackdowns on venues in South Florida and Central Florida where children were attending these shows. Additionally, it was passed amidst a series of bills in Florida and other Republican-led states targeting LGBTQ-related issues.

The DeSantis administration appealed Judge Presnell’s ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and sought a partial stay that would have allowed enforcement of the law against all venues except one while the legal battle continued. However, both Presnell and an appeals court panel rejected this request for a partial stay.

The administration then took the matter to the Supreme Court but was ultimately denied. The court did not provide a breakdown of the justices’ positions but noted that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the request for a stay.

However, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett explained their position on denying the stay. They pointed out that while district courts have the power to enter injunctions prohibiting government enforcement against non-parties in certain cases, this specific case involved a First Amendment overbreadth challenge, presenting its own complexities about the scope of relief. They suggested that this issue might warrant further review in the future.

Despite the ongoing legal battle, this decision by the Supreme Court means that the preliminary injunction against enforcing the law remains in place statewide.

The case against the law was filed by Hamburger Mary’s, an Orlando restaurant and bar, which claimed that it unconstitutionally deterred them from presenting non-sexually explicit drag shows to children. The state argued that extending relief beyond Hamburger Mary’s exceeded the district court’s authority since it was not part of a class action lawsuit.

This ruling highlights the complex and sensitive nature of balancing First Amendment rights with efforts to protect children from potentially objectionable content. As this legal challenge continues, both sides will continue to make their arguments in an attempt to secure their desired outcomes.


Comments are closed.