News (USA)

Judge deals second blow to Texas’ drag ban

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A federal judge has extended his temporary order that prevents Texas from enforcing its ban on drag shows. The law was supposed to go into effect on September 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 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 first 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.”

Lawyers from the Texas Attorney General’s office argued that because the law didn’t specifically mention drag, it wasn’t 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,” and added the comment, “That’s right.” Many state politicians who supported the law also publicly stated that it was meant to target drag, specifically.

“Today’s decision is another much-needed reprieve that prevents SB 12 from irreparably harming the rights and freedoms of all Texans, especially LGBTQIA+ Texans and the plaintiffs in this case,” ACLU of Texas attorney Brian Klosterboer said in a press release. “Drag is a form of artistic expression protected under the First Amendment with roots dating back millennia.”

The latest ruling extends the injunction for another two weeks or on a date set by the US District Court.

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