Florida restaurant sues DeSantis over drag show restrictions

The lawsuit asks the court to halt enforcement of a new law banning minors from attending such performances

Daniel TrottaReuters
Published : 23 May 2023, 06:41 AM
Updated : 23 May 2023, 06:41 AM

A Florida restaurant that puts on what it calls family-friendly drag performances sued Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida on Monday to halt enforcement of a new law banning minors from attending such shows.

Hamburger Mary's, an Orlando bar and restaurant that presents drag show performances, comedy sketches and dancing, filed the suit in federal court in response to the law, which the Republican governor signed last week.

Senate Bill 1438 allows the state to fine or revoke the liquor licence of an establishment that admits minors to a performance that "simulates nudity, sexual conduct or specific sexual activities."

DeSantis' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"This bill has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with the continued oppression of the LGBTQ+ community," the owners of Hamburger Mary's wrote on Facebook.

The Facebook post offered a broader critique of DeSantis' policies to eliminate books and public school courses that refer to LGBTQ themes or the US history of racial oppression, asking, "When does it stop?"

DeSantis, who is expected to announce he is seeking the Republican nomination for president this week, has pursued policies in Florida that restrict LGBTQ rights.

He signed the "Protection of Children" bill the same day he also signed bills to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth and require transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth.

The lawsuit asks the court to block the law, saying it violates the constitutional right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

"It prohibits protected speech based on the identity of the speaker," the lawsuit said.

The law erroneously targets drag shows as deviant when they have become "part of mainstream culture," it said. "It is a form of family entertainment, enjoyed by all."