A federal judge in Orlando Friday temporarily blocked a new Florida law restricting drag performances, the third time this month that federal courts have enjoined laws backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that concern gender or LGBTQ+ matters. In all three cases, the courts ruled that the laws appear to infringe on people’s constitutional rights.
In Friday’s decision, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell of the Middle District of Florida granted an injunction preventing the state from enforcing a law that bans minors from attending obscene live performances, calling it too broad.
The governor’s office attacked the judge in a statement saying he was “dead wrong” and predicted the state would win on appeal.
“Of course it’s constitutional to prevent the sexualization of children by limiting access to adult live performances,” governor’s spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said in an email.
Hamburger Mary’s, an Orlando bar and restaurant that features drag waitresses and family-friendly drag performances, comedy sketches and dancing, filed the lawsuit in response to the law that DeSantis signed in May.
Hamburger Mary’s argued the law was written so broadly as to have a “chilling effect” on First Amendment rights to free speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Judge Presnell agreed, finding the plaintiff was likely to succeed at trial on First Amendment grounds.
“Florida already has statutes that provide such protection (from obscene performances). Rather, this statute is specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers,” Presnell wrote.
On Wednesday, another judge struck down a Florida rule and a statute that banned state Medicaid payments for transgender healthcare.
On June 6, that same judge partially blocked Florida from enforcing its recent ban on people under 18 receiving gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy.