A federal judge in Texas ruled the ban on “sexually oriented performances” in front of minors under 18, which targeted drag shows, is unconstitutional.
US District Judge David Hittner wrote in his ruling that Senate Bill 12 “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.” The bill was signed by Gov.Greg Abbott in June to take effect on September 1, but Hittner temporarily blocked the bill from taking effect and this ruling has barred state authorities from enforcing this law.
Though the law did not say the word “drag”, it banned the “exhibition of sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics.” Hittner stated this law was “substantially overbroad” and “unconstitutionally vague.” He continued that “even if SB 12 were not unconstitutionally vague, it would still fail due to it being an impermissible prior restraint on speech.”
Ultimately, the vagueness of this bill caused Hittner to question its viability.
“The Court sees no way to read the provisions of SB 12 without concluding that a large amount of constitutionally-protected conduct can and will be wrapped up in the enforcement of SB 12,” the ruling reads. “It is not unreasonable to read SB 12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation.”
In Hittner’s ruling, he states that drag is an art that is protected by the First Amendment.
“Drag shows express a litany of emotions and purposes, from humor and pure entertainment to social commentary on gender roles,” the ruling reads. “There is no doubt that at the bare minimum these performances are meant to be a form of art that is meant to entertain, alone this would warrant some level of First Amendment protection.”
Austin drag queen Bridgette Bandit, a plaintiff in the case, feels this decision shows support to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.
“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,” Bandit said in a statement.