Hamburger Mary’s sues Ron DeSantis over Florida drag ban: ‘When does it stop?’

An edited image of Florida governor Ron DeSantis next to a Hamburger Mary's figurine.

America’s queerest fast-food chain, Hamburger Mary’s, is suing Ron DeSantis for his attacks on drag shows in Florida.

An Orlando branch of the restaurant revealed on Monday (22 May) that legal action has been taken against the state’s governor, claiming its First Amendment rights were under threat due to the his anti-LGBTQ+ stance.

The branch hosts drag events, and says it plans to continue to do so, despite new laws restricting drag performances across the Sunshine state.

Hard-line Republican DeSantis signed yet another set of laws restricting LGBTQ+ rights on 17 May in what he describes as a war against “woke ideology.”

Included in the five bills is HB 1438, which prohibits public drag show performances, by imposing sanctions on establishments that “admits a child into an adult live performance”.

Hamburger Mary’s says Ron DeSantis’ drag law will have a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech

Hamburger Mary’s said in a statement that the bill “has nothing to do with children and everything to do with the continued oppression of the LGBTQ+ community“.

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The statement added: “Anytime our legislators want to demonise a group, they say they are coming for your children, in this case, creating a false narrative that drag queens are grooming and recruiting your children, with no factual basis or history to back up these accusations.

“Our transgender friends are being vilified because our legislators will not take the time to understand the importance of gender-affirming care for these people.”

The legal complaint, also filed against the secretary of the state for business and professional regulation, Melanie Griffin, accuses the legislature of violating the 1871 Civil Rights Act by prohibiting the establishment’s free speech.

It also argues that, because the law is so broad, it could include “even the most innocent drag performances,” which makes it ripe for abuse.

“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,” it continues.

Ron DeSantis, in a blue tie and navy blue suit, speaks infront of a black background.
Ron DeSantis says he is in “war against woke”. (Getty)

Hamburger Mary’s spokesperson also noted the rise of book bans and the removal of courses “that have any reference to African American history” as examples of growing concern for free speech in the south-eastern state.

“When does it stop?” the spokesperson asked. “They are setting a precedent that the state legislators can decide what is best for you based on their own values and convictions, and write it into law.”

The fast-food franchise will continue to stage drag performances in its Orlando establishment today (24 May) with an LGBTQ+ Gayme Night, hosted by drag stars Ginger and Gidget.

It also uploaded a legal defence fundraiser on GoFundMe, which has attracted more than $22,800 (approximately £18,500) so far.

The situation in Florida has become so vitriolic for LGBTQ+ people that the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida have issued a travel advisory warning detailing the risks associated with visiting the state.

Human Rights Campaign president, Kelley Robinson, said: “Because of Ron DeSantis and his frenzied appeal to extremists, LGBTQ+ people in Florida are finding themselves in a state of emergency every single day.

“Those who visit must join us in their vocal opposition to these dangerous policies. Those who pick another place to work, to go to school or to spend their vacation should make clear why they’re not heading to Florida.”

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