The U.S. Supreme Court denied Florida’s request on Thursday to reinstate its anti-drag law, marking a victory for opponents of the legislation.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law in May that punishes venues if they allow people younger than 18 to attend “adult live performances” that contain sexually explicit or lewd content, including exposure to “prosthetic genitals and breasts.” The businesses could face fines of $10,000, the loss of their business and liquor licenses, and criminal penalties for not complying.
Though the legislation doesn’t explicitly name drag performances, the sponsor of the bill said that it targeted drag performances.
The law was challenged in May by Hamburger Mary’s, a bar and grill in Orlando that frequently hosts family-friendly drag shows.
In a lawsuit against the state and DeSantis, the business argued that the law was a violation of free speech and that its phrasing was “vague and indistinct.”
In June, a federal judge sided with Hamburger Mary’s and issued a preliminary order blocking the law from taking full effect. The state of Florida appealed the court’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th District, which is still pending.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a stay motion to the 11th Circuit, asking that it limit the injunction to apply only to Hamburger Mary’s rather than to all establishments in the state during the appeal process.
After the motion was denied by a divided 11th Circuit panel, the state turned to the U.S. Supreme Court to request that the law be reinstated. In a motion filed to the higher court, Moody said that “Florida is now unable to enforce its statute at all, to the detriment of Florida’s children and the State’s sovereign prerogative to protect them from harm” as a result of the injunction.
According to The Washington Post, the restaurant’s attorney Donald A. Donati urged the Supreme Court not to allow the law to take effect, pointing out that Florida already has laws that prevent children from viewing sexually explicit material.
Donati added that Hamburger Mary’s drag shows are “not harmful to minors” but that restaurant owners are worried about being prosecuted for violating the law because of its broad and vague language.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court also refused to reinstate the law with a vote of 6-3, NPR reported. In a statement explaining the decision, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that the decision does not reflect their own views on whether the law violates the First Amendment but that the state didn’t raise the issue in its filings to the court.
The three dissenting justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, indicated that they would have allowed the law to take effect.
ANH reached out to Moody’s and DeSantis’ offices for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
The law will not be able to take effect as the appeal process continues.