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Texas courts block drag ban while allowing trans medical ban to go into effect

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In two separate rulings affecting LGBTQ+ rights in Texas, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the state’s drag ban from going into effect, and the conservative-led state Supreme Court has allowed the ban on gender-affirming care for minors to go into effect.

Both laws were set to go into effect on Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had filed a lawsuit to challenge Senate Bill 12 on behalf of local drag performers. The law punishes drag performers and venues with a $10,000 fine if they allow a minor to see a “sexually explicit” performance. Such a performance is defined as one in which “a male performer [is] exhibiting as a female, or a female performer exhibiting as a male, who uses clothing, makeup, or other similar physical markers and who sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience.”

In his decision, District Judge David Hittner wrote, “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.”

The plaintiffs said that the “stunningly broad” law unfairly targets their art form, even in performances that contain no sexual content. Many cities and the state already have laws protecting minors from seeing sexually explicit performances. The drag ban, plaintiffs argued, will waste taxpayer dollars on local officials enforcing an unconstitutional law.

Lawyers from the Texas Attorney General’s office argued that because the law didn’t specifically mention drag, it wasn’t specifically discriminatory to drag performances. However, in June, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) shared a story about the law’s passage that contained the headline, “Texas Governor Signs Law Banning Drag Performances in Public. That’s right.” Many state politicians who supported the law also made statements in public saying that it was meant to specifically target drag.

Judge Hittner will soon decide whether to make his temporary injunction permanent while considering the law’s constitutionality.

Meanwhile, the state’s all-Republican Supreme Court lifted a lower court’s temporary injunction against the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The court offered no explanation for its decision. However, its members may have allowed the ban to go into effect to assist their chances of being re-elected in the majority conservative state.

The law threatens to revoke the medical licenses of any medical professionals who help minors access puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and surgeries, even though gender-affirming surgeries aren’t typically conducted on trans youth.

Jonathan Covey, policy director of the anti-LGBTQ+ group Texas Values celebrated the ruling.

“Texas kids are safer today because of the Supreme Court ruling,” Covey said. “Protecting children from harmful and dangerous gender transition surgeries and puberty blockers is in the best interests of the child and something we all agree on.”

Despite his claims, gender-affirming healthcare is considered safe and essential to the well-being of trans youth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and other major U.S. and world health organizations.

In a joint statement, the ACLU of Texas and other plaintiffs who had filed a joint lawsuit against the law said, “Transgender youth and their families are forced to confront the start of the school year fearful of what awaits them. But let us be clear: The fight is far from over.”

Last week, a district judge issued a temporary injunction on the ban. In her decision, District Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel wrote, “The loss of access to safe, effective, and medically necessary treatment for transgender adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria.”

She also said that the state law “likely violates” parts of the Texas constitution, including “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.”

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