News (USA)

Hamburger Mary’s sues Ron DeSantis as his drag ban drives away their customers

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis Photo: Shutterstock

Hamburger Mary’s, the iconic burger joint found in gayborhoods across America, is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the state of Florida over the state’s new drag ban.

The Orlando branch of the flamboyant, drag-themed restaurant chain says they’ve been deprived of their First Amendment rights and are already losing customers under the state’s new rules targeting drag shows.

DeSantis signed a collection of laws last week — described by critics as a “slate of hate” — including a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, pronoun prohibitions, trans bathroom bans, and new penalties for venues hosting children at “adult live performances.”

That amendment to the state’s definition of drag shows, now classified along with strip club shows as “adult” entertainment, exposes venues and their employees to first-degree misdemeanor charges for violations.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida asks the court to stop the law from being enforced.

Hamburger Mary’s “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 restaurant regularly hosts drag performances that include bingo, trivia, and comedy. On Sundays, children are welcomed at “family friendly” drag shows.

According to the suit, Hamburger Mary’s has lost 20% of their reservations for the Sunday shows and other events since announcing minors could no longer be in attendance while drag performers were present.

A high percentage of wait staff regularly dresses in drag, as well.

“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 says.

It’s so broad, the restaurant’s reps argue, that it could criminalize “even the most innocent drag performances,” and “reach into the private homes” of Floridians “to determine on behalf of parents what is and is not appropriate entertainment for their children.”

At the signing ceremony for the new laws, held at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa on Wednesday, DeSantis said of Florida, “We are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy, and kids should have an upbringing that reflects that,” an assertion suggesting parents should conform to the state’s wishes, and not the other way around.

The ceremony coincided with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

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