Metro Weekly

Judge Extends Order Blocking Texas from Enforcing Drag Ban

Federal judge has two more weeks to consider whether to issue a more sweeping order blocking the state from prosecuting drag performers.

Photo: Everythingpossible / Dreamstime

A federal judge extended a temporary restraining order blocking Texas from attempting to enforce its ban on drag performances for an additional 14 days. 

The decision gives the court two weeks to consider whether to issue a permanent injunction that would prevent enforcement of the law — which was originally slated to take effect on September 1 — while its constitutionality is argued in court, reports CBS News.

The law, passed earlier this year, prohibits “sexually oriented” performances from occurring in public places, state-funded facilities, or venues where minors may potentially view them.

It defines “sexually oriented” shows as those featuring nudity, real or simulated, sexually-tinged content, or simulation or representation of sexual acts or the use of accessories that “exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics,” such as prosthetic breasts — which critics say is a deliberate, yet indirect, attempt to ban drag shows.

Under the law, private businesses may not host drag shows or other “sexually oriented” performances unless they ensure that no minors are present — something particularly difficult for establishments that are not exclusively bars or adult entertainment venues.

Business owners in violation can be fined $10,000 per occurrence, while performers can face up to a year in jail, a fine of $4,000, or both.

While Texas officials have claimed in court that the law does not explicitly ban drag, and is simply about protecting children, Gov. Greg Abbott previously linked to a Metro Weekly article about the law in a post on his X account, confirming that the law was intended to “ban drag performances in public.”

Additionally, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate, has cast all drag shows as inherently sexual and dangerous to children because seeing a drag performer can scar them for life. He previously issued a statement championing the law as a necessary step to “fight back against the radical Left’s degradation of our society and values.”

“It is shocking to me that any parent would allow their young child to be sexualized by drag shows. Children, who cannot make decisions on their own, must be protected from these sexually-oriented drag shows now occurring more and more in front of them,” Patrick said back in April, prior to the law’s passage

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of a group of Pride organizations, two businesses, and drag performer Brigitte Bandit. Their complaint claims the law is unconstitutional, is overly broad and vague, violates people’s First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of expression, and constitutes viewpoint and content-based discrimination.

U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner, of the Southern District of Texas, previously blocked state authorities from enforcing the law, finding that there was a “substantial likelihood” that the law “violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution under one or more of the legal theories put forward by the Plaintiffs.”

In a post to X earlier this week, the ACLU of Texas noted that Hittner had extended the injunction blocking Texas officials from prosecuting people under the drag law, noting that the ban “would make our state less free, less fair, and less welcoming,” and vowing to defeat it. 

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas, praised the extension as a “much-needed reprieve that prevents SB12 from irreparably harming the rights and freedoms of all Texans, especially LGBTQIA+ Texans and the plaintiffs in this case.”

“Drag is a form of artistic expression protected under the First Amendment with roots dating back millennia,” Klosterboer added.

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