Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando is suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida in federal court, claiming the restaurant has been deprived of its First Amendment rights and is already losing customers under a new law affecting drag shows.
Gov. DeSantis signed bills last Wednesday taking aim at transgender treatments for minors, pronouns in schools, bathroom use and children attending drag shows.
The changes included penalties for venues letting children into “adult live performances” and potential first-degree misdemeanor charges for violators.
Hamburger Mary’s filed the lawsuit Monday, which also names as a defendant Melanie Griffin, secretary of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, is asking the court to stop the law from being enforced.
A spokesman for the governor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment, but DeSantis has previously said he is fighting to protect children.
“We are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy, and kids should have an upbringing that reflects that,” DeSantis has said.
The restaurant, which opened in 2008, has hosted drag performances that include bingo, trivia and comedy. On Sundays, the downtown Orlando restaurant has “family friendly” drag shows to which children are invited, the lawsuit said.
After the law was signed, the restaurant told customers that children would not be allowed at any drag shows and it lost 20% of its bookings for Sunday and future events, according to the lawsuit.
“They simply cannot take the chance that their business or liquor licenses would be suspended for hosting a drag show where children attend,” the lawsuit states. “In addition, the criminal penalties of the law put individuals at risk of prosecution because of the content of their speech.”
The lawsuit argues the law is broad enough to include “even the most innocent drag performances, to reach into the private homes of Florida citizens, and to determine on behalf of parents what is and is not appropriate entertainment for their children.
“The broad, sweeping nature of the statute, and the vagueness regarding what conduct is and is not prohibited, will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of the citizens of Florida,” the lawsuit states.
The laws championed by DeSantis, who is expected to announce a run for the White House soon, have infuriated the LGBTQ community, with one spokesman calling them the “slate of hate.”
DeSantis signs bills aimed at transgender care, pronouns, drag shows
Equality Florida, an advocacy group for the gay community, issued a travel advisory on Wednesday, warning visitors to Florida that those laws and others make the state a hostile place to visit.
In a statement, the group said the warning was prompted by “the passage of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws, foment racial prejudice and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum.”