Drag show restaurant files federal lawsuit against Florida and Governor DeSantis

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A popular Orlando restaurant that regularly hosts drag shows has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Monday, less than a week after he signed a bill targeting drag shows.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Orlando by the owner Hamburger Mary’s Orlando Claims that the state is depriving businesses of their First Amendment right to freedom of expression. The restaurant is asking the court to temporarily suspend the law until the case is heard.

DeSantis passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation A big part of his agenda as he prepares to seek the Republican presidential nomination. He signed a bill restricting drag shows — along with bills that would ban gender-affirming care for minors, limit the discussion of personal pronouns in schools and force people to use certain bathrooms — to a cheering crowd at Cambridge Evangelical Christian School in Tampa last Wednesday.

Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille has more than a dozen locations in the U.S. The Orlando restaurant opened in 2008. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant used to host “family-friendly” drag shows on Sundays, but a new Florida law would force them to ban children from all shows. This led to a 20% drop in Sunday bookings.

Supporters of the legislation said the law aims to prevent children from watching sexually explicit performances. Lawyers for the business argue that the new law is so broad and vague that it could be applied to almost any performance that involves a man dressing as a woman, even if the performance is not sexual in nature. The lawsuit states that business owners cannot risk having their business or liquor license suspended or prosecuted by allowing children to their shows.

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The governor did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

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