Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando sues DeSantis over state anti-drag law
But this Sunday, the restaurant had told customers that children could no longer attend the long-running show because it included drag performers.
The change came after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) signed a bill on May 17 that would fine or suspend the licenses of hotels and restaurants that allow children to attend “ sexually explicit adult performances,” which include drag shows.
After the law took effect the same day, the Orlando Hamburger Mary’s said it lost a fifth of its reservations.
The restaurant is suing, claiming that if the law remains in effect, it would strip Hamburger Mary’s of its First Amendment free speech and speech rights.
Filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the federal lawsuit names as defendants the State of Florida, DeSantis, and Melanie Griffin, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Florida law “is broad enough to encompass even the most innocent drag performances, to reach the private homes of Florida citizens, and to determine on behalf of parents what is and is not appropriate entertainment for their children” , says the lawsuit.
In a statement posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page on Monday, one of its co-owners wrote that the bill “has nothing to do with children and everything to do with the continued oppression of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The offices of DeSantis and Griffin did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this month, DeSantis signed HB 1438 into law as part of a larger package of bills codifying anti-LGBTQ measures. The bills ban certain gender-affirming care for children, require restrooms in public buildings to be based on “biological sex,” and ban programs on sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. kindergarten to eighth grade.
“Florida is proud to lead the way in standing up for our children,” DeSantis said in a press release. “As the world goes crazy, Florida represents a refuge of mental health and a citadel of normality.”
When HB 1438 went into effect, Florida joined Tennessee — the first state to sign a similar bill before a judge temporarily blocked it — in targeting drag performance in the legislation. Across the country, at least 14 states were seeking to ban or restrict drag performances at the start of this year’s legislative session.
Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando has held events with drag performers — including trivia, bingo and comedy sketches — since it opened in 2008, according to the lawsuit.
The Sunday show, it states, has “no lewd activity, sexually explicit material, disorderly conduct, public display, obscene exposure or anything inappropriate” for children, adding that it is is a “form of family entertainment”.
The Sunday performance and others hosted at the restaurant were open to people of all ages, the complaint states.
Since HB 1438 went into effect, the restaurant has canceled its family drag shows.
“They simply cannot risk having their business or liquor license suspended for hosting a drag show attended by children,” the lawsuit states.
He alleges the law will have a “chilling effect” on the First Amendment rights of Florida residents.
In the online statement, Orlando Hamburger Mary co-owner wrote that HB 1438 sets a precedent for lawmakers to “decide what’s best for you” based on their values.
“We have spent too many years moving forward,” the statement read. “We can’t go back!