In a win for LGBTQ+ rights, a federal judge has temporarily blocked Florida’s archaic anti-drag ban. 

On 17 May, the state’s Republican governor Ron Desantis targeted the queer community, yet again, when he signed five anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. 

One of the pieces of legislation that the conservative official signed was SB 1438, or the “Protecting Children’s Innocence” bill – which allows the state to revoke licenses from businesses if they allow children to attend “adult live performances,” such as drag shows.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law, LGBTQ+ organisations and local queer businesses used their platforms to speak out against the hateful law – including the drag-themed bar and restaurant chain Hamburger Mary’s. 

On 22 May, the popular LGBTQ+ franchise – which has a location in Orlando, Florida – filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and the state over SB 1438’s “broad” terms. 

The filing, led by Hamburger Mary’s Orlando owner John Paonessa, also accused the legislation of obstructing their right to free speech under the First Amendment.

“The language used in the statute is meant to be and is primarily vague and indistinct,” the filing said, per Today

“It does not mention ‘drag’ by name but it is so broad as to include this art form in the State’s interpretation under the newly created or amended laws in question.” 

Fortunately on 23 June, US District Judge Gregory A Presnell sided with Hamburger Mary’s and issued a preliminary injunction against the hateful law.

“The state claims that this statute seeks to protect children generally from obscene live performances. However, as explained infra, Florida already has statutes that provide such protection,” Presnell said in his ruling per Politico.

“Rather, this statute is specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers.” 

Judge Presnell also pointed out that the law doesn’t properly define a “live performance,” which he said could range from a “sold-out burlesque show to a skit at a backyard family barbecue.” 

Lastly, the judge called out the state’s claims that preventing the law from going into effect would “harm the public” and expose children to “lewd” adult live performances.

“This concern rings hollow, however, when accompanied by the knowledge that Florida state law presently and independently… permits any minor to attend an R-rated film at a movie theater if accompanied by a parent or guardian,” he added.  

Shortly after the ruling was announced, Hamburger Mary’s legal representative Melissa J Stewart praised the move in a statement to The New York Times. 

“This preliminary injunction will protect the rights of not just drag performers in Florida but everyone else who would be affected by this law,” she said. 

While Judge Presnell temporarily blocked the law, he did not dismiss it entirely. Hamburger Mary’s case against the state and DeSantis will continue to move forward.