A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling preventing the enforcement of a controversial new Florida law that sought to regulate and restrict drag shows in the state.
The law had faced legal challenges, and now, with the appeals court’s decision, it will remain unenforced until a trial in Orlando, Florida, determines its constitutionality.
The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel has decided to maintain a preliminary injunction issued by a lower court, effectively halting law enforcement.
Attorneys representing the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation had appealed the injunction, seeking to limit its scope to the plaintiff who challenged the law.
They argued that the injunction’s reach extended too far, affecting nonparties who may want to host events that potentially violate the statute.
Federal Appeals Court Upholds Florida Freedom of Expression Injunction
However, the appeals court panel rejected this request, emphasizing that the Florida agency failed to demonstrate any errors in the lower court’s decision to halt the law’s enforcement.
This decision is a notable win for advocates of freedom of expression and drag performances in Florida.
The legal battle over the law was initiated by the owner of Hamburger Mary’s, a popular restaurant and bar in Orlando that frequently hosts drag shows, including family-friendly performances.
These events, designed for audiences of all ages, were integral to the establishment’s offerings.
The restaurant owner contended that the law was overly broad, vague in its language, and infringed upon First Amendment rights by stifling free speech.
The new law, backed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is pursuing the GOP presidential nomination for 2024, targeted venues that allowed children to attend “adult live performances.”
Although the law did not explicitly mention drag shows, its sponsor clarified that the legislation was primarily aimed at such performances.
Under the law, venues that violated its provisions were at risk of fines and the potential suspension or revocation of their liquor licenses.
Additionally, individuals could face misdemeanor charges for their involvement in these events.
The decision of the federal appeals court to maintain the preliminary injunction is a significant step in the ongoing legal battle over the Florida law.
It underscores the importance of protecting the rights of individuals and establishments to express themselves through art and performance, and it serves as a reminder of the robust legal safeguards in place to protect freedom of expression in the United States.
The upcoming trial in Orlando will further clarify the law’s constitutionality and implications for the vibrant and diverse world of drag entertainment in Florida.
Source: ABC News