The Supreme Court declined to let Ron DeSantis (R) enforce his ban on obscene drag performances, in a blow to the Florida governor's agenda.
The high court did not weigh the merits of the case, however, raising the possibility that it will return to the controversy before long.
The law makes it a crime to expose children to obscene or sexually explicit adult performances. A federal district court blocked the law on First Amendment grounds, also finding the law was too vague.
An Orlando restaurant that hosts drag shows, Hamburger Mary's, sued Florida over the ban. The case is pending before the 11th Circuit, which rejected Florida's emergency request to lift the injunction, leading Florida to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch said they would allow the law to take effect. Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the majority.
In a brief order, the Supreme Court said Florida did not present a question that the court was likely to take up.
Florida had asked the Supreme Court to narrow the lower court's injunction so that the law could be enforced against all restaurants except Hamburger Mary's.
Because Florida did not raise a First Amendment argument, however, the case is an "imperfect vehicle" for addressing the "important" question of whether district courts can block enforcement against non-parties to litigation, the Supreme Court wrote.
The justices noted that they were not sharing an opinion on whether the law is constitutional.
“To begin with, although Florida strongly disagrees with the District Court’s First Amendment analysis, Florida’s stay application to this Court does not raise that First Amendment issue,” the justices wrote. “Therefore, the Court’s denial of the stay indicates nothing about our view on whether Florida’s new law violates the First Amendment.”
A spokesman for DeSantis said the governor is "disappointed" but confident that he will ultimately prevail.
"While we are disappointed in this particular ruling, the Supreme Court did not opine on the merits of our law protecting children from sexualized adult live performances,” DeSantis press secretary Jeremy Redfern said in a statement. “This case is still pending appeal at the 11th Circuit, and we expect this law to be upheld on the merits.”
The owner of Hamburger Mary's, meanwhile, is thrilled with the court's decision.
“It’s unbelievable what you can do when you stand up for what’s right, and the courts see what it is,” Hamburger Mary’s owner John Paonessa said. “That’s what’s happening everywhere, so I’m glad we were able to do it.”