The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Florida’s effort to enforce a state law that targets drag performances and, critics say, imposes illegal restrictions on free speech.
In a 6-3 ruling, with three conservatives dissenting, the court denied an emergency request from Florida officials who were challenging lower courts that had blocked the law from being enforced.
The court’s majority did not explain its reasoning.
The measure, widely seen as part of a conservative campaign against LGBTQ rights, was passed this year by the Florida Legislature.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants the Republican presidential nomination and has embraced anti-LGBTQ issues, signed the bill into law.
Earlier this year, DeSantis also signed a bill that restricts transgender health care.
Officially dubbed the Protection of Children Act, the anti-drag law makes it a crime to admit a child to an “adult live performance” that the state deems sexually explicit.
Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch were the three dissenting justices who supported Florida’s request to allow the law to be enforced.
A district court judge blocked the law under the First Amendment, saying in part that it was vaguely written, with key terms such as “lewd conduct” not defined.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let that ruling stand.
Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando brought the legal challenge and sued Florida.
The restaurant’s lawyers said in court papers that the shows “are not harmful to minors but likely still run afoul of the act due to its overbreadth and vagueness.”
The district court prevented Florida 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.
In its application to the Supreme Court, the state asked the justices to narrow the injunction to only the restaurant.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another conservative, wrote a brief opinion explaining why he voted against the state, saying the narrow issue the state raised 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.