A restaurant in Orlando is suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over his law that bans children from attending "adult" live performances, saying it is affecting their business and violating its free speech.
The owners of Hamburger Mary's filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida asking that the "Protection of Children" act, SB 1438, not be enforced in the state.
The bill, which is seen as a way to target drag acts as DeSantis and other Republican figures vow to crack down on the LGBTQ+-friendly performances, states that a business will be at risk of losing its license if it is found to have admitted "a child to an adult live performance."
Hamburger Mary's has featured events such as bingo, trivia and comedy hosted by drag acts in the past. The restaurant also hosts a "family-friendly" drag show on Sundays that children are invited to attend, the lawsuit said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives remarks at the Heritage Foundation's 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on April 21, 2023 in National Harbor, Maryland. A Florida restaurant is suing Ron DeSantis over a new law that restricts “adult" live performances in the state. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
The suit claims that the restaurant has lost at least 20 percent of its Sunday bookings after it told customers that children were no longer allowed to attend the drag event under DeSantis' bill.
"They 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 suit said that the law is broad enough that it could include "even the most innocent drag performances, to reach into the private homes of Florida citizens, and to determine on behalf of parents what is and is not appropriate entertainment for their children.
"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 suit adds.
Florida-based attorney Michael Mandell agreed that SB 1483 is susceptible to wide interpretation.
"It's vague in how it is applied," Mandell told WFTV. "It's saying anything adult entertainment, which includes loudness. What that really means is unclear.
"On one hand, Florida has the SB 1483 bill, which is there to protect children, so that's their argument," Mandell said. "When it comes to Hamburger Mary's, it's the freedom of speech argument."
Mandell added that the state may also have a strong argument it could cite obscenity in its arguments, and that there may be a "different type of standard" involved as children are involved.
The bill was signed into law by DeSantis on May 17 along with a string of other laws that restricted gender-affirming treatments for minors and pronoun usage in school.
SB 1483 defines an "adult live performance" as any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience that "in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities."
The measure states this includes "lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts," shows appealing to "prurient, shameful, or morbid interests," and patently offensive displays "without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for the age of the child present."
The law does not mention "drag" by name, but DeSantis did mention the act during the bill-signing ceremony.
"This is sad that you kind of have to do this," DeSantis said. "There's these, like, drag shows. It's sexually explicit, what they're doing. And look, adult entertainers — people can do what they want with some of that. But to have minors there, I mean, you have situations where you'll have an 8-year-old girl there, where you have these really explicit shows, and that is just inappropriate."
Former Florida state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, the first openly LGBTQ+ Latino elected to the state legislature, who is now running for Senate, condemned DeSantis for his latest bills targeting the LGBTG+ community.
"Ron DeSantis just signed the largest slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in Florida history revoking our freedoms and ruining people's lives in his quest for political power," Smith tweeted on May 17.
"We will NOT be erased. We will RESIST.We will FIGHT BACK. We will proudly RAISE OUR FLAGS. We will WIN."
Newsweek has contacted DeSantis' office for comment via email.