DeSantis administration loses another round on drag shows, sued over banning Students for Justice in Palestine

DeSantis administration loses another round on drag shows, sued over banning Students for Justice in Palestine

(As originally published, Fri, November 17th 2023, 9:11 PM EST)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (TND) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration are facing two challenges and they’re not related to his presidential campaign.

The University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit in federal court on Thursday after the chancellor of Florida’s university system ordered schools to disband the chapters.

Chancellor Ray Rodrigues wrote that the group released a “toolkit” that referred to the Hamas attack on Israel as “the resistance” and said Palestinian students “in exile” are part of the movement.

According to News Service of Florida, the letter was published by Fox News and a Twitter account associated with the governor’s presidential campaign shared the link.

“This order threatens the students’ constitutionally protected right to free speech and association in violation of the First Amendment,” the ACLU wrote. “The ACLU and its partners are seeking a preliminary injunction that would bar the Chancellor and the University of Florida from deactivating the UF SJP.”

The ACLU reports there are only two chapters at state universities in Florida — the other, reportedly at the University of South Florida — and the chapter at UF “is fully autonomous,” having nothing to do with statements published by the National Students for Justice in Palestine group.

“This attack on free speech is dangerous: Today it is pro-Palestinian students; tomorrow, it could be any other group the governor dislikes,” Howard Simon, interim executive director of ACLU of Florida, said.

DeSantis administration loses another round on drag shows, sued over banning Students for Justice in Palestine
FILE – Republican presidential candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaks during the Politics & Eggs program at Saint Anselm College, Friday, Oct. 13, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

In Washington, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request from the DeSantis administration to enforce a law aimed at preventing children from attending drag shows.

The law, dubbed by sponsors as the “Protection of Children Act,” would prevent venues from admitting children to adult live performances.

What’s an adult live performance?

The legislation defines it as “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, lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

Drag shows are not specifically mentioned but the bill came after DeSantis cracked down on locations where children attended drag shows, alongside a wave of bills targeting LGBTQ-related issues.

Over the summer, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell issued a statewide preliminary injunction, finding the law violated First Amendment rights.

“Defendant professes that a statewide preliminary injunction would ‘harm the public by exposing children to ‘adult live performances,’” the judge wrote. “This concern rings hollow, however, when accompanied by the knowledge that Florida state law, presently and independently of the instant (new) statutory scheme, permits any minor to attend an R-rated film at a movie theater if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Such R-rated films routinely convey content at least as objectionable as that covered by (the new law).”

The DeSantis administration appealed the ruling and suggested a backup plan that would’ve let the state enforce the law except at Orlando restaurant and bar Hamburger Mary’s, which filed the lawsuit.

Three justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — said they would’ve granted the state’s request.


Information from The Associated Press and News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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