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Orlando Restaurant Sues Florida and Gov. DeSantis to Keep Doing Drag Performances in Front of Kids

Hamburger Marys, an Orlando-based restaurant renowned for its drag shows has taken legal action against the state of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, filing a federal lawsuit on Monday. This comes just days after Governor DeSantis signed a bill forbidding children from attending drag performances.

Hamburger Mary’s Orlando, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, alleges that the state is infringing upon their First Amendment rights to free expression. The restaurant is seeking a temporary injunction to halt the implementation of the law while the case proceeds.

Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille operates multiple locations across the United States, including its establishment in Orlando, which opened in 2008. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant has traditionally hosted “family-friendly” drag shows on Sundays. However, the new Florida law mandates a ban on children attending all shows, resulting in a 20% decline in Sunday bookings.

A glimpse at the “family friendly drag” shows at Hamburger Marys was provided by Libs of Tik Tok in 2022.

In May, Governor DeSantis approved a series of bills that prohibit sex-change surgeries and hormone treatments for minors, restrict children from attending drag shows, and impose limitations on how LGBTQ+ topics are taught in elementary schools.

Senate Bill 254 takes a strong stance against gender transition surgeries and medication, including puberty blockers for individuals under the age of 18. Furthermore, it categorizes the provision of such medication or surgeries by physicians and healthcare professionals as a first-degree misdemeanor. The bill also grants state courts the power to intervene and secure custody of a child if they are deemed to be undergoing sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.

Furthermore, House Bill 1069 defines “sex” strictly as a male or female. It also stipulates that teachers cannot be coerced into using preferred “pronouns” if they do not align with the person’s biological sex.

Supporters of the legislation argue that it aims to protect children from sexually explicit performances. However, the restaurant’s legal team contends that the law is overly broad and vague, potentially encompassing any performance involving a man dressed as a woman, even if it lacks any sexual content. The lawsuit emphasizes the restaurant owners’ inability to risk the suspension of their business or liquor licenses, or potential criminal prosecution, by allowing children at the shows.

Hamburger Mary’s Orlando even has a GoFundMe for Orlando staff workers.

“The Hamburger Mary’s Orlando staff has been out of work since March 14th,” the GoFundMe page states. “Currently, 95% of the staff  have not received a dime from unemployment. We are hoping that we can raise some much needed money so that this hard working team can pay their bills.”

Governor DeSantis’ press office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.