The US Supreme Court, in a split decision, issued a brief statement on Thursday refusing to reinstate a Florida law that targets drag shows. A lower court order previously prohibited the law from coming into effect. The justices refused to intervene in that decision, meaning the law will not come into effect anywhere in the state while a Florida restaurant that regularly hosts drag shows continues to challenge the law at the Supreme Court.
While the order refusing to reinstate the ban was unsigned, several of the court’s justices signaled differences in reasoning or disagreement. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch indicated that would have granted Florida’s application for stay, allowing the law to be enforced state-wide while the lawsuit continues pending.
Agreeing with the court’s decision but disagreeing with their reasoning, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett indicated that the court made the right decision because the court is unlikely to take up this case at this point in the proceedings. Kavanaugh and Barrett appeared to disagree with the grounds upon which the state of Florida appealed the lower court’s ruling. While the case appeared before the court on a First Amendment challenge, the justices argued the central issue actually dealt with “the general question of whether a district court may enjoin a government from enforcing a law against non-parties to the litigation.”
The case at issue, Griffen v. HM Florida-ORL, LLC deals with an Orlando, Florida restaurant and bar known as Hamburger Mary’s. In May, Hamburger Mary’s sued the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Melanie Griffen challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s Protection of Children Act. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the law back in May, effectively targeting drag shows by prohibiting minors from attending “adult live performances.” Anyone found to be in violation fo the law would be charged with a misdemeanor. Hamburger Mary’s claimed that, because of the law, they suffered loss of business by being prohibited from including children in their drag shows. Hamburger Mary also claimed that the law violated of the US Constitution’s First Amendment and that the statute was too vague to be properly enforced.
The district court blocked the Protection of Children Act from coming into effect with a preliminary injunction, ahead of a trial scheduled for June 2024. When Florida appealed the preliminary injunction to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the court refused to overturn it, which is how the case landed before the US Supreme Court.