Federal judge temporarily blocks Florida law restricting drag shows
A federal judge blocked enforcement of a Florida law cracking down on drag shows, writing in an order issued Friday that the rule is vague and contradicts the state's commitment to parental rights.
What's happening: U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell issued the preliminary injunction in response to a request from the Orlando location of Hamburger Mary's, a drag-themed restaurant that sued the state over the law in May.
- The law "is specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers," Presnell wrote.
Zoom in: In their request for an injunction, Hamburger Mary's attorneys said the restaurant lost customers after barring children from drag shows to comply with the law.
- The harm to the restaurant, Presnell ruled, outweighs the imagined harm that could result from blocking the law as the challenge moves through the legal system.
Why it matters: The law was part of a sweeping slate of legislation restricting health care and public expression for LGBTQ+ Floridians that came out of this year's legislative session.
- Presnell's order is also part of a recent string of legal victories for LGBTQ+ people across the country.
- In the last two weeks, courts in Florida, Arkansas and Indiana have blocked restrictions to transgender health care.
The other side: A spokesman for Gov. Ron DeSantis told Axios that his office believes the judge's ruling is "dead wrong" and that the state plans to appeal.
- DeSantis has previously said that drag shows "sexualize" children and sought last year to penalize two venues that admitted children to drag performances.
- However, state agents who attended one of the shows DeSantis criticized reported no lewd activity, according to the Miami Herald.
State of play: The law bans children from attending an "adult live performance" that depicts nudity, lewd conduct, or "lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts."
- Despite widespread opposition, including a protest at the Capitol that drew hundreds of drag artists, the bill passed the legislature in April and was signed by DeSantis in May.
Between the lines: Florida already has laws on the books that penalize exposing children to obscene material, the judge wrote.
- Along with the redundancy, the law's vague language makes it "susceptible to standardless, overbroad enforcement which could sweep up substantial protected speech," Presnell said.
- The policy also doesn't include a carveout to allow a child to attend a banned performance with a parent. That clashes with Florida's Parents' Bill of Rights, Presnell wrote.
Flashback: As the law moved through the legislature, some supporters argued that it wasn't targeting drag shows but rather a narrow set of what the bill called "adult live performances" that weren't age-appropriate.
Reality check: Presnell cited the words of House bill sponsor Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) to establish that the law targets drag shows.
- After filing the bill in March, Fine wrote on Facebook that it "will protect our children by ending the gateway propaganda to this evil — ‘Drag Queen Story Time.'"
- In a statement to Axios, Fine accused the judge of taking the "social media comments out of context to support his intellectually dishonest argument."
- "I am confident that as the case moves to more competent jurists, they will uphold the law," Fine added.