Florida’s anti-drag law — and Ron DeSantis — dealt a blow in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday prevented Florida from temporarily enforcing a law that would punish venues for allowing children to attend drag shows.

The ruling is a blow to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who championed the so-called Protection of Children Act — a law that makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to admit children to sexually explicit adult live performances, such as drag shows. 

The measure, signed into law by DeSantis in May as part of a broader legislative package targeting gender-reassignment surgery for children, instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and gender-neutral bathrooms, was blocked by a Florida District Judge Gregory Presnell in June.

Presnell ruled that statute “is specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers” and that existing obscenity laws provide the Sunshine State “with the necessary authority to protect children from any constitutionally unprotected obscene exhibitions or shows.”

The Supreme Court declined to narrow a lower court’s injunction related to the law’s enforcement.
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The anti-drag bill was signed into law by DeSantis in May.

Three justices, conservatives Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch indicated that they would have allowed the law to be implemented. 

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett authored the high-court’s statement explaining the ruling, noting that the court denied Florida’s application for stay because it is unlikely to take up the case on the grounds that the state had challenged the lower court’s ruling. 

“To begin with, although Florida strongly disagrees with the District Court’s First Amendment analysis, Florida’s stay application to this Court does not raise that First Amendment issue,” the justices wrote. “Therefore, the Court’s denial of the stay indicates nothing about our view on whether Florida’s new law violates the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit against the state was brought by popular Orlando restaurant Hamburger Mary’s, which had hosted “family-friendly” drag shows on Sundays.

The new law has forced them to ban children from all shows.

The restaurant, in its lawsuit against the Sunshine State, claimed the state is depriving the business of its First Amendment rights to free expression. 

Florida had requested that the Supreme Court narrow the state-wide injunction so that the law could be enforced against every business except Hamburger Mary’s.

The Supreme Court could take up the case after the appeals process plays out in a lower court.

Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett acknowledged that whether district courts have the power to prevent the enforcement of a law against non-parties is “an important question that could warrant our review in the future,” but argued that the case is an “imperfect vehicle” to answer that question. 

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has argued that because of the lower court injunction the state is “unable to enforce its statue at all, to the detriment of Florida’s children and the State’s sovereign prerogative to protect them from harm.”

Moody’s office did not respond to The Post’s request for comment. 

The case has been sent back to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the full appeal, after which it may return to the high court.