On Friday, a federal judge nominated to the District Court by former President Bill Clinton blocked the state of Florida from implementing HB 1438, which prohibited an establishment from knowingly admitting minors to “adult live performances,” including drag performances.
“’Adult live performance’ means any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities,” the law states. This includes “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts when it: Predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest; is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community of this state as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for the age of the child present; taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present.”
Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in May, saying, “Florida is proud to lead the way in standing up for our children. As the world goes mad, Florida represents a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy.”
But the owners of Hamburger Mary’s Orlando, a drag-themed restaurant, sued Florida, saying the law transgressed their First Amendment rights.
U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell, nominated by Clinton in June 2000, sided with the drag-themed restaurant, writing that the law was “dangerously susceptible to standardless, overbroad enforcement” and conflicted with Florida’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights” because the state was in charge of deciding what performances the children could attend instead of the parents.
Presnell reportedly worried that the law was “specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers,” quoting HB 1438’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine, saying it “will protect our children by ending the gateway propaganda to this evil — ‘Drag Queen Story Time.’”
The judge contended that Florida’s obscenity laws protect children from “any constitutionally unprotected obscene exhibitions or shows.”