Supreme Court blocks Florida’s drag show ban during appeal

November 17, 2023

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would not allow Florida to enforce a law targeting drag shows while a court case on the state’s proposed ban goes forward.

The Justices declined to narrow a lower court’s order prohibiting the statewide ban. Their ruling came after a panel on the 11th Circuit Court of appeals had also upheld the lower, U.S. District Court’s order that stopped the ban from being enforced, finding it likely restricted free speech.

Three Justices—Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas—said they would have allowed the state’s ban to go forward while the appeals process proceeds.

The initial complaint against the ban was brought by Hamburger Mary’s restaurant and bar in Orlando, which regularly hosts drag shows, including family-friendly performances on Sundays where children were invited to attend. The establishment’s owner has argued that the law was vaguely written and violated the First Amendment by chilling speech.

The language in the law includes punishing venues for allowing children to view “adult live performances.”

While “drag shows” are not specified anywhere in the wording of the law, the legislation’s sponsor has said it is aimed at those venues. 

Punishments could include venues’ having their liquor licenses to be suspended or revoked, and individuals found to be in violation could be charged with misdemeanors.

Proponents of the drag show ban have countered that the law is meant to keep children from viewing sexually explicit performances and is thus Constitutional.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is running for President in 2024, has championed the ban.

Amid nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed or under consideration in the U.S. this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 19 states, including Florida, have proposed legislation that targets drag shows for restrictrictions or outright bans.

PHOTO: Hamburger Mary’s drag performers at “Come out with Pride” event, 2009

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

 

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