Appeals Court Rules Against Florida Law Banning Drag Shows For Minors

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Kate Anderson Contributor
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An appeals court on Wednesday stopped a Florida law banning minors from attending drag shows from going into effect, claiming that it may be “overbroad” and violate the First Amendment, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Protection of Children Act” in May, which barred venues from admitting minors to “any show, exhibition, or other presentation which … depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or specific sexual activities.” The restaurant Hamburger Mary’s Orlando, which hosts multiple drag shows, filed a lawsuit against the state and the governor that same month, and the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 to uphold a previous decision to block the ban from taking effect while the lawsuit is pending, according to the Orlando Sentinel. (RELATED: Reagan-Appointed Federal Judge Rules Texas Drag Ban Violates First Amendment)

The appeals court referred to a June decision from U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell, who argued that the ban potentially violated the right to free speech for venues and could be too “overbroad,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“In support of its allegations, Plaintiff claims that the statute is not sufficiently narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest and that it is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad,” Presnell wrote. “Plaintiff points to the ambiguity of terms like ‘lewd conduct’ and ‘child,’ and the broad subjectivity that must necessarily be employed to enforce such language.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends a live taping of Hannity at Fox News Channel Studios on September 13, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends a live taping of Hannity at Fox News Channel Studios on September 13, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

The lone dissenter, Judge Andrew Brasher, said that he would have allowed the ban to take effect with an exception for Hamburger Mary’s Orlando while the lawsuit plays out, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Attorneys for DeSantis appealed Presnell’s decision in July and made a similar argument to Brasher’s, asking that if there were to be an injunction it should only apply to the restaurant chain’s Orlando venue.

“An injunction preventing enforcement of the statute against HM (Hamburger Mary’s) fully protects HM from any harm,” the state said in its appeal, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “In granting broader relief, the district court irreparably harmed the state by ordering it to refrain from enforcing a duly enacted law designed to protect children from exposure to age-inappropriate, sexually explicit live performances.”

The law would allow the state to revoke a venue’s license if it did not adhere to the restrictions listed in the bill, according to the text. Individuals could also be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor if they “knowingly” allow children at a drag show.

A similar law was also struck down in Texas in September when a judge ruled that the ban would chill free speech. The judge noted that having a different opinion does not justify stripping “First Amendment protection,” especially since drag shows often contain political and ideological “messages.”

Hamburger Mary’s attorney and DeSantis’ office did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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