Florida Seeks to Enforce Anti-Drag Law After Lower Courts Block It

Emma Grant

Florida has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold a contentious new legislation that bans the staging of drag shows in which kids are present.

The decision was made after lower courts refused to implement the rule following a restaurant’s legal appeal.

Florida Officials Turn to Supreme Court

The state of Florida has asked the Supreme Court to restrict two injunctions from lower courts that prevent the law from being enforced statewide in an emergency motion filed on Friday.

The injunctions were obtained as a result of a lawsuit filed by Orlando club Hamburger Mary’s, which regularly holds drag shows. The initial attempt to execute the statute against the eatery was halted by a federal district judge.

The state of Florida wanted the preliminary injunction to simply apply to Hamburger Mary’s, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that it applied statewide.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, Florida said that the 11th Circuit’s decision to bar implementation of the statute everywhere was an abuse of judicial power that “effectively erases” the law. The government says the law applies to all businesses except Hamburger Mary’s for the time being.

Controversial Law Targets Drag Performances

Businesses cannot knowingly allow kids to attend “adult live performances” that include nudity or sexual content, citing a new law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Without identifying drag shows by name, the law’s proponents said their goal was to prevent minors from seeing such performances.

In the event of a legal infraction, venues can be penalized, have their liquor licenses revoked, or have their owners or performers charged with felonies. Supporters of LGBTQ people have said the law unjustly punishes such expressions.

Hamburger Mary’s Lawsuit Argues Law Violates Free Speech

Hamburger Mary’s anticipated the law’s enforcement and proactively filed a lawsuit to block it. On Sundays, the restaurant features family-friendly drag brunch performances.

Hamburger Mary’s sued the government on the grounds that the law stifles free speech in violation of the First Amendment. The eatery argued that the rule is too broad, poorly drafted, and unbalanced in its emphasis on child safety vs free speech.

To prevent the state from executing the legislation against Hamburger Mary’s, a federal district judge agreed and issued a preliminary injunction. The 11th Circuit appeals court went even farther, expanding the injunction to cover the whole state of Florida pending the outcome of the case.

The state of Florida argued to the Supreme Court that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals exceeded its jurisdiction. They argued that courts should not prevent the universal enforcement of a state law, but should instead stop enforcement only against individual plaintiffs.

The petition to the Supreme Court is just the most recent development in what is likely to be a long legal battle. The Supreme Court’s decision on Florida’s petition might take weeks.

The broader challenges to the anti-drag law brought by Hamburger Mary’s and other litigants are currently being heard by lower courts. Even if the Supreme Court rules in Florida’s favor, the case is unlikely to be settled.

Nonetheless, the anticipated verdict by the Supreme Court could have significant ramifications for whether or not the controversial statute can currently be enforced in light of existing cases.

Florida’s efforts to restrict LGBTQ speech remain in the national limelight as Governor DeSantis mulls a candidacy for the presidency.

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Emma Grant is a highly regarded legal news expert with a deep understanding of constitutional law and its implications in contemporary society. With her extensive background in legal journalism and analysis, Emma Grant has established herself as a trusted authority on the intersection of law, policy, and society.