A well-known burger restaurant in Orlando, famous for its regular drag shows, has filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, asserting that a new law targeting drag shows violates their First Amendment rights.
Hamburger Mary’s owners in Orlando argue that their First Amendment rights were infringed upon when Governor DeSantis signed SB 1438, a bill that restricts children from attending certain drag show performances. The federal lawsuit obtained by NPR reveals that the Orlando restaurant is seeking a court order to block the implementation of the state’s new law. It is important to note that other Hamburger Mary’s locations across Florida and the rest of the U.S. are not part of this legal action.
According to the lawsuit, it is evident that the state of Florida intends to label drag shows as public nuisances, lewd, disorderly, sexually explicit involving public exposure, and obscene, despite evidence to the contrary. The owners argue that the drag performances hosted at Hamburger Mary’s since 2008 are suitable for children, with no lewd or inappropriate content.
The lawsuit further contends that Florida’s new law is too vague, and the owners claim that their bookings have decreased by 20% after they informed customers this month that children would no longer be allowed at drag shows as a precaution.
At the time of reporting, Florida state Sen. Clay Yarborough, the bill’s sponsor, and Governor DeSantis’ office had not responded to NPR’s request for comment on the lawsuit. The owners of Hamburger Mary’s declined an interview with NPR but released a statement on Facebook explaining their decision to file the lawsuit.
The owners stated that the bill has nothing to do with children but is instead a means to oppress the LGBTQ+ community. They criticized the false narrative being created that drag queens are grooming and recruiting children, emphasizing that there is no factual basis or historical evidence to support such accusations.
Florida’s new law, known as the “Protection of Children” act, prohibits children from attending any “adult live performance.” The law defines an “adult live performance” as any show or exhibition that, in part or in whole, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.
Violators of the law could face prosecution, hefty fines, and the revocation of licenses. The “Protection of Children” act is one of several anti-LGBTQ+ measures introduced by Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature this session.
Recently, Governor DeSantis signed a law banning gender-affirming care for minors, implementing restrictions on discussions of “preferred pronouns” in schools, and imposing limitations on using bathrooms that do not align with one’s assigned sex at birth.
In the year 2022, over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were proposed during state legislative sessions, but only 29 of those bills were signed into law.