The Florida law restricting drag performances has been temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell, marking the third such intervention against Governor Ron DeSantis-backed legislations pertaining to gender or LGBTQ issues within this month. This demonstrates an ongoing trend of such issues being shot down in court on the grounds of potential constitutional rights infringement.
Judge Presnell, serving the Middle District of Florida, announced his decision on Friday. He granted an injunction to prevent the state from implementing a law designed to prohibit minors from attending performances deemed obscene. While the judge criticized the law for its excessive breadth, he did not discard it altogether, indicating that the underlying lawsuit against it will proceed.
Despite the court’s rebuke, Governor DeSantis’s office remains defiant, characterizing the judge’s decision as “dead wrong” and expressing optimism about their chances of success on appeal. DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern defended the law in an email, arguing that it is constitutionally acceptable to prevent children’s exposure to adult live performances.
This controversial law, which was signed by Governor DeSantis in May, sparked a lawsuit filed by Hamburger Mary’s, an Orlando-based venue known for its drag show performances, comedy sketches, and dancing. The plaintiff contended that the law’s vague language threatened to suppress their First Amendment rights to free speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. In his decision, Judge Presnell sided with Hamburger Mary’s, suggesting a high probability of their succeeding in court on First Amendment grounds. The judge also noted the existence of other Florida laws already addressing the issue of obscene performances, indicating that the disputed law was seemingly targeted at silencing drag queen performers.