Florida Restaurant Sues Gov. Ron DeSantis over State’s Drag Ban

This past week, Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando experienced a significant decline in reservations for its beloved “Broadway Brunch” on Sunday.

Known for its LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere, Hamburger Mary’s has been hosting the weekly show for many years, featuring performers dressed in costumes who sing and dance to Broadway’s popular tunes around the restaurant’s inviting round tables.

Past performances have included renditions of iconic songs like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins,” “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease,” and “Morning Person” from “Shrek the Musical.”

However, this Sunday brought a disappointing announcement to patrons, stating that children would no longer be allowed to attend the long-standing show due to the inclusion of drag performers.

The change in policy came shortly after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on May 17, targeting hotels and restaurants that permit children to attend “sexually explicit adult performances,” which encompasses drag shows.

As a result, Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando experienced a 20% decrease in bookings following the implementation of the law. In response, the restaurant has filed a lawsuit, asserting that if the law remains in effect, it would violate their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression.

The federal complaint was submitted on Monday to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, with the state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, and Melanie Griffin, the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, named as defendants. The lawsuit argues that the Florida law is excessively broad, extending its reach even to innocent drag performances and infringing upon the private lives of Florida citizens. Additionally, it asserts that the law interferes with the rights of parents to determine appropriate entertainment for their children.

In a statement posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, one of Hamburger Mary’s co-owners emphasized that the bill “has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with the continued oppression of the LGBTQ+ community.” However, neither the offices of Governor DeSantis nor Melanie Griffin provided comments in response to the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis signed H.B. 1438, a bill that introduced a range of anti-LGBTQ measures. Alongside restrictions on certain gender-affirming care for children and requirements for public restrooms to align with “biological sex,” the bill prohibits curricula on sexual orientation and gender identity in pre-K classrooms through the eighth grade. DeSantis celebrated the legislation, stating, “Florida is proud to lead the way in standing up for our children. As the world goes mad, Florida represents a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy.”

With the enactment of H.B. 1438, Florida joined Tennessee as the second state to target drag performances through legislation, although a judge temporarily blocked Tennessee’s law. Notably, at least 14 states across the country were considering or proposing similar bans or restrictions on drag performances at the start of the legislative session this year.

According to the lawsuit, Hamburger Mary’s in Orlando has been hosting events featuring drag performers, such as trivia, bingo, and comedy sketches, since its establishment in 2008. The complaint asserts that the Sunday show, in particular, has always been free from any lewd or explicit content, disorderly conduct, or inappropriate behavior for children, emphasizing that it serves as a form of family entertainment.

Since the implementation of H.B. 1438, the restaurant has been forced to cancel its family drag shows. The lawsuit argues that the law will have a “chilling effect” on the First Amendment rights of Florida residents, inhibiting their freedom.

What are your thoughts on the bill?

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