Challenge to Florida drag shows law won’t go to trial until next spring

Jul 24, 2023, 9:46 AM | Updated: 10:14 am

FILE - Hundreds of drag queens and allies march from Cascades Park to the Florida Capitol in Tallah...

FILE - Hundreds of drag queens and allies march from Cascades Park to the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., where a rally was held on the steps of the Historical Capitol building to speak out in opposition to "continued attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican state legislators," April 25, 2023. Librarians in Florida who feared fines for hosting drag queen story hours and Pride parade organizers who worried about citations for including drag performers can breathe easier now. That is because a federal judge in Florida ruled on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, that his injunction blocking the state’s anti-drag law extends to all Florida venues. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP, File)

(Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A trial to determine if a new Florida law targeting drag shows is constitutional won’t start until next spring.

A filing posted in federal court in Tallahassee late last week shows that the trial won’t start until the beginning of June 2024. It is scheduled to last two days and will be decided by a judge instead of a jury.

The law, championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is on hold for now. A federal judge last month issued a temporary injunction preventing it from being enforced until the trial is held. The state of Florida has appealed that decision.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell issued an order clarifying that the injunction applied to all venues in Florida, not just the restaurant that had sued the state challenging the law’s constitutionality.

The new law punishes venues for allowing children into “adult live performances.” Although it does not specify drag shows, the sponsor of the legislation said it was aimed at those performances. Venues that violate the law face fines and the possibility of their liquor licenses being suspended or revoked. Individuals could also be charged with a misdemeanor crime.

The lawsuit was brought by the owner of a Hamburger Mary’s restaurant and bar in Orlando, which regularly hosts drag shows, including family-friendly performances on Sundays that children were invited to attend. The restaurant owner said the law was overbroad, was written vaguely and violated First Amendment rights by chilling speech.

Before announcing his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, DeSantis made anti-LGBTQ+ legislation a large part of his agenda as governor. Other bills he signed would ban gender-affirming care for minors and restrict discussion of personal pronouns in schools.

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Challenge to Florida drag shows law won’t go to trial until next spring