The Supreme Court of the United States has made a significant decision regarding Florida’s new law targeting drag shows. In a ruling on Thursday, the justices stated that the law cannot be enforced while a court case is ongoing. This decision upholds a lower-court order that has already prohibited the law from being enforced statewide. Florida had requested that the law be enforced everywhere except at the Hamburger Mary’s restaurant in Orlando, which had challenged the law’s constitutionality. However, three justices, namely Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas, expressed their disagreement with the majority and would have granted the state’s request.
Last month, a panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s order, which halted the enforcement of the law. The district court had determined that the law likely violated the right to free speech and therefore could not be enforced anywhere in the state. This ruling was seen as a victory for Hamburger Mary’s, a popular venue that regularly hosts drag shows, including family-friendly performances on Sundays that welcome children. The owner of the restaurant argued that the law was too broad, poorly defined, and infringed upon First Amendment rights by chilling speech.
The controversial law, which was signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on May 17, targeted venues that allowed children to attend what it referred to as “adult live performances.” Although the law did not explicitly mention drag shows, the legislation’s sponsor indicated that it was aimed at such performances. Venues found to be in violation of the law faced fines and the potential suspension or revocation of their liquor licenses. Individuals could also be charged with a misdemeanor offense.
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Jeremy Redfern, a press secretary for Governor DeSantis’ office, issued a statement expressing disappointment but emphasizing that the court did not address the merits of the law’s objective to protect children from sexualized adult live performances. Redfern also noted that the case is still pending appeal at the 11th Circuit, and the state expects the law to ultimately be upheld on its merits.
This ruling by the Supreme Court has garnered attention as it pertains to an ongoing debate surrounding the rights of performers and the boundaries of free speech. The decision to halt the enforcement of the law demonstrates the court’s commitment to thoroughly examining its constitutionality and ensuring that individuals’ rights are protected. As the case continues, it will undoubtedly have implications for similar laws targeting drag shows and adult live performances in other states.