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LGBTQ+ bar Hamburger Mary's gets legal win against DeSantis' drag ban

A federal judge issued a temporary injunction while a court weighs the constitutionality of a law severely restricting drag shows in Florida.
LGBTQ+ bar Hamburger Mary's gets legal win against DeSantis' drag ban
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 26, 2023

The restaurant chain Hamburger Mary's has come out victorious in a step forward for their case challenging a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that severely restricts how drag performances are hosted in the state. 

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell issued a temporary injunction blocking the Florida law that opponents call unconstitutionally vague. The legislation threatens punishment for businesses in the state that allow minors to view drag performances in any way. 

Under the law, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation would be able to revoke licenses and issue thousands of dollars in fines to establishments that are deemed to have broken the law. 

SEE MORE: Florida's law targeting drag shows on hold after federal judge's order

Attorney Melissa Stewart said in a statement to the Advocate, "We are extremely pleased with this first win."

Stewart said, "This law is unconstitutionally vague, over broad, and clearly targeted at drag performers. The judge's order reflects that. This order will protect the First Amendment rights of not only our clients, but of the LGBTQIA community across Florida while we move forward with the next steps in this litigation."

The law will now be blocked until a court can assess the constitutionality of the ban. 

Supporters of the law, including lawmakers, have compared drag shows to strip shows in arguing why they believe minors should not be allowed to view them. 

The Florida law would still allow businesses to be punished even if a parent gave permission for their child to view a drag performer for any amount of time, including in situations where a performer could be seen on the patio of a restaurant, a balcony, through a window or at a public outdoor Pride event.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that penalties for breaking the law could also include up to a year in prison for employees, including ticket-takers and permitted performers at public events, even including lobby attendants. 

Numerous Pride events were canceled in Florida amid what was described as a climate of fear. With many Pride events held outdoors, organizers expressed worry that successfully hiding performers from passing minors on the street could prove too difficult and risky, considering the steep punishments for breaking the new law. 

The Poynter Institute's PolitiFact wrote an analysis on why drag shows are not the same as strip shows after former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wrote "Let's be clear: 'drag shows' are strip shows" in early January on Twitter. 

By definition, drag shows are when a performer dons an elaborate and exaggerated consume with, often times, thick exaggerated stage makeup to lip-sync a popular song and dance. 

Strip shows, by definition, are when a performer dances while removing clothing. 

Finn Enke, a professor of gender and women’s studies, was quoted in the analysis drawing on history, and wrote, "Drag is a term derived from ancient Greek theater - a Greek word meaning ‘masquerade,’ and its roots have remained in theatrical performances generally involving cross-dressing."

Hamburger Mary's has multiple locations in at least four Florida cities, and other locations in California, Ohio, Nevada, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada and Colorado. 

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