A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied Florida’s request to allow it to temporarily enforce a law that makes it a misdemeanor to allow children to attend a drag performance, a law challengers say, imposes unlawful restrictions on free speech.
The court, divided 6-3, with three conservatives dissenting, rejected an emergency request from Florida officials after lower courts blocked the law statewide. The majority did not explain its reasoning. The three justices who would have granted the state’s request were Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.
The brief unsigned order means that the state cannot apply the law anywhere in the state while a Florida restaurant’s challenge to the law continues.
The measure was passed this year by the Florida Legislature and signed shortly after by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May. Officially dubbed the Protection of Children Act, the law makes it a crime to admit a child to an “adult live performance” that the state deems sexually explicit.
Hamburger Mary’s, an Orlando bar and restaurant that features drag waitresses and family-friendly drag performances, comedy sketches and dancing, filed a lawsuit in response to the law.
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.
“The district court prevented the state from enforcing the law not just against Hamburger Mary’s but also statewide. The state argued that the judge did not have authority to do so,” reports NBC News. “In its application to the Supreme Court, the state asked the justices to narrow the injunction so it applied only to the restaurant.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another conservative, wrote a brief opinion explaining why he voted against the state, saying the narrow issue the state was raising was not one the court would normally hear. Fellow conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined most of Kavanaugh’s opinion.
“This case is therefore an imperfect vehicle for considering the general question of whether a district court may enjoin a government from enforcing a law against non-parties to the litigation,” he wrote.