The U.S. Supreme Court recently put a stop to Florida’s “Protection of Children Act,” a law intended to prevent children from attending live performances featuring explicit content, including drag shows.
This ruling, following a federal district court’s support for an Orlando drag bar, Hamburger Mary’s, represents a notable setback in the efforts to protect minors from potentially harmful content.
SB 1438, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, criminalizes allowing children to witness sexually explicit live performances.
The Protection of Children Act in the state will impose fines or revoke licenses for venues that “knowingly” allow children into “adult live performances.”
The law defines “adult live performances” as “any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities … lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”
Orlando’s drag venue, Hamburger Mary’s, immediately contested the law upon its passage. The establishment argued that the measure infringed upon First Amendment rights, a claim initially supported by a federal district court that found the law likely violated constitutional protections of free speech.
The eatery hosts drag brunches and asserts that the law is negatively impacting its business. They contend that the decision of whether a performance is suitable for an underage audience should be left to parents or guardians, not the state.
In October, the state asked the Supreme Court for the injunction to be specific to Hamburger Mary’s while the case proceeds.
As per a Tampa Free Press report, Secretary Melanie Griffin of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has submitted an emergency request to Justice Clarence Thomas, urging the reinstatement of the law during the ongoing state lawsuit.
Justice Thomas has the option to handle the request independently or bring it to the full court for consideration, as stated in a report from The Hill.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court turned down Florida’s plea to limit the lower court’s injunction exclusively to Hamburger Mary’s in a 6-to-3 vote, with Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch in dissent.
Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett clarified that Florida’s failure to raise the First Amendment issue in the case means the court’s decision does not reflect a stance on whether the law breaches First Amendment rights.
Until the Eleventh Circuit hears the case fully, the law will not be enforced in the state.
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