In a victory for LGBTQ rights proponents, a temporary injunction has been imposed by U.S. District Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas, effectively halting the impending enactment of Texas’ prohibition on drag performances.
The measure, slated to take effect this Friday, was thwarted by the Reagan-appointed federal judge, spotlighting the ongoing legal battle over issues of expression and inclusivity.
In his written judgment issued on Thursday and reported by The Hill, Hittner said, “The Court finds there is a substantial likelihood that S.B. 12 as drafted violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution under one or more of the legal theories put forward by the Plaintiffs.”
On June 18, 2023, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, endorsed Senate Bill 12, making it law. The legislation, set to become effective on Sept. 1, prohibits enterprises from hosting performances deemed “sexually oriented.” The law encompasses acts involving nudity or content that caters to a “prurient interest in sex” when minors are present. Violators of the statute could be subject to penalties, potentially reaching a maximum of $10,000 for each infringement.
Championed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU), a consortium of Texas drag performance ensembles initiated legal action against the state earlier this month, contending that the legislation infringes upon the freedom of speech. Contention arose from these LGBTQ advocates who asserted that the bill’s encompassing delineation of performances is overly expansive and runs afoul of constitutional principles, said The Hill.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas hailed the injunction ruling as a cause for celebration.
“Drag performers and LGBTQIA+ allied businesses belong in our state, and Texas politicians have no right to censor our free expression,” the organization said.
After the issuance of the injunction, the court will proceed to thoroughly deliberate the merits of whether the law can be implemented.
Drag performers and LGBTQ civil rights organizations have contended that the legislation remains susceptible to being wielded to curtail drag performances. Furthermore, they express concern that the law could potentially also be wielded against transgender individuals within the state of Texas.
“Texas queens and kings from across our great state have been targets of threats and misinformation as a result of the anti-drag law,” drag artist Brigitte Bandit, who is one of the plaintiffs, told The Associated Press. “Our community will not be used as a scapegoat or a distraction by politicians who do not know who we are or what we do.”
Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick proclaimed that the law would “push back against the radical left’s disgusting drag performances” as he lauded the bill’s approval last month. “Children, who cannot make decisions on their own, must be protected from this scourge facing our state.”
Jim Thomas ✉
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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