U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate Florida Law Banning Children from Drag Shows

“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,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a statement explaining his vote, adding, “Therefore, the Court’s denial of the stay indicates nothing about our view on whether Florida’s new law violates the First Amendment.”

This past May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law the “Protection of Children Act,” which would essentially ban children from “adult live performances” that feature sexual or lewd conduct. Though it had no mention of drag queen shows, the law was largely interpreted as a direct attempt to curtail businesses from advertising shows that feature drag queens as family-friendly events.

Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille restaurant in Orlando sued, arguing the law violates free speech rights. The establishment hosts drag shows, among other activities. A federal court in Florida issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from going into effect, and Florida Solicitor General Henry Whitaker asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay that would reinstate the law while the appeal is underway.

Kavanaugh said that Florida did not raise the First Amendment issue, and instead only challenges “the scope of relief ordered by the District Court—namely, that the injunction prohibits state enforcement of the law not only against Hamburger Mary’s but also against other entities that are non-parties to this litigation.”

“To be clear, if this Court, for example, were ultimately to affirm the District Court’s First Amendment judgment on the merits, the State could not successfully enforce this law against anyone, party or not, in light of stare decisis,” it said.

The law, therefore, cannot be enforced to its full effect until the Eleventh Circuit hears the case, the Supreme Court concluded.

Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch voted to grant the stay.

This application is Griffin v. HM Florida-ORL, LLC, No. 23A366, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

gray pillars by Claire Anderson is licensed under Unsplash unsplash.com

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