Federal judge declares Texas ban on drag performances unconstitutional News
Brainy J, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Federal judge declares Texas ban on drag performances unconstitutional

A US federal judge in Texas ruled on Tuesday that the state’s ban on drag performances was unconstitutional and blocked it from going into effect. District Judge David Hittner found in his preliminary injunction against the ban that it “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.” The ruling follows an August 31 temporary restraining order that stopped the bill from going into effect on its intended date of September 1.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the ban, Senate Bill 12 (SB 12), into law back in June. SB 12 targeted “sexually oriented performances” on public property or in front of children under the age of eighteen. LGBTQ+ advocates feared that SB 12 would be used to criminalize drag performances amid a rising wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the US.

In August, the ACLU Texas and Baker Botts LLP filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the ban. They claimed that SB 12 was “sweepingly overbroad and vague and fail[ed] to give adequate notice of what it proscribes.” They went on to claim that the ban “impermissibly gives police, prosecutors, municipalities, counties, and the Texas Attorney General unbridled discretion to censor expressive activity by cancelling events and imposing criminal penalties of up to a year in jail or fines of up to $10,000.”

Brigitte Bandit, a drag performer and one of the plaintiffs in the case, commented:

I am relieved and grateful for the court’s ruling. My livelihood and community has seen enough hatred and harm from our elected officials. This decision is a much needed reminder that queer Texans belong and we deserve to be heard by our lawmakers.

Brandt Thomas Roessler , a senior associate at Baker Botts LLP, also commented, “I’m glad that the court recognized the constitutional rights of our clients, drag performers, and their patrons, and protected their rights to freely express an art form particularly important to LGBTQ+ people.”