DeSantis' Florida drag ban suffers another legal blow in latest court ruling

Orlando, Florida - A federal appeals court has blocked an anti-LGBTQ+ bill seeking to impose severe restrictions on drag performances in Florida.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked enforcement of a law that would create a chilling effect on drag performances in Florida.
The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked enforcement of a law that would create a chilling effect on drag performances in Florida.  © Chandan Khanna / AFP

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday blocked a law, signed by far-right Governor and 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis in May, which would ban minors from attending drag shows. According to the text of the bill, a violation of the law could result in bars and businesses losing their licenses and first-degree misdemeanor charges for adults who "knowingly" admit minors to prohibited performances.

The decision upheld a prior ruling from District Judge Gregory Presnell, who in June determined that the legislation's language was too vague to protect free speech.

In particular, Presnell took issue with the fact that the terms and phrases "live performance," "child," "lewd conduct," and "lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts" had not been clearly defined in the law.

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Presnell wrote that this lack of clarity means the law could cover anything from a burlesque show to a "skit at a backyard family barbecue," while the text about "prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts" calls into question the "implications for cancer survivors with prosthetic genitals or breasts."

In a 2-1 decision, the US Circuit Court agreed, warning that "there is a potential for extraordinary harm and a serious chill upon protected speech."

The move means that the drag ban will not be enforced before Florida's full appeal is heard.

Cover photo: Chandan Khanna / AFP

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