A U.S. judge on Friday 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 issues supported by DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, lost on grounds 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 judge refused to dismiss the law entirely, meaning the underlying lawsuit challenging it will go forward.
The governor’s office said the judge 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,” Jeremy Redfern, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said in an email.
Hamburger Mary’s, an Orlando bar and restaurant that presents drag show 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. The judge 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.
DeSantis has been at the forefront of a conservative campaign restricting LGBTQ rights.
On Wednesday, another judge struck down a Florida rule and a statute that banned state Medicaid payments for transgender healthcare.
That same judge on June 6 partially blocked Florida from enforcing its recent ban on people under 18 receiving gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
In both of those cases, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida cited 14th Amendment guarantees to equal protection under the law.