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Orlando drag show restaurant sues DeSantis, claiming anti-drag law violates free speech

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Hamburger Mary's in Orlando, which hosts "family friendly" drag show performances, is suing the state of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, alleging a new bill violates its First Amendment rights to free expression.

The restaurant's owner on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court, less than a week after Gov. DeSantis signed a law that restricts drag show performances and subjects businesses in violation of the law to liquor license revocation and hefty fines.

Hamburger Mary's, which said it has regularly hosted drag performances since 2008, claimed in the lawsuit that the performances are suitable for children, as there is "no lewd activity, sexually explicit shows, disorderly conduct, public exposure, obscene exhibition, or anything inappropriate for a child to see."

While drag has historically been associated with the LGBTQ+ community, it is now considered an "art form" that has gained acceptance in mainstream culture, the lawsuit claims, citing the long-running TV show "Ru Paul's Drag Race" as an example.

Drag performers typically wear "more clothing than one would expect to see at a public beach," the lawsuit states. 

Its main event, which takes place during Sunday brunch, typically hosts a range of guests, including families with children and is a "wholesome form of art and entertainment," the lawsuit claims. 

However, the law over which the establishment is suing can suspend the licenses of businesses that allow children to attend such performances. Hamburger Mary's claims the statute is too vague and overly broad, thereby limiting expression in violation of the First Amendment. 

Hamburger Mary's has since prohibited children from attending its drag shows to avoid fines and license revocation. As a result of this move, it claims it has lost 20% of its customers for a show scheduled for May 21 as well as future bookings.

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