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Judge halts drag show restrictions from taking effect in Texas

Brandon Bell/Getty Images, FILE

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against Senate Bill 12, which restricts “sexually oriented performances” and has been criticized for limiting public drag performances in Texas.


The law was set to go into effect on Friday, Sept. 1.

The law doesn’t specifically mention drag shows, but local politicians have made it clear the law is intended to restrict drag performances in the state.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement the bill would prohibit “sexualized performances and drag shows in the presence of a minor.”

The ACLU of Texas represented local LGBTQ groups, businesses and a performer in a lawsuit against state officials who would enforce the restrictions.

“The Texas Drag Ban is stunningly broad in scope and will chill entire genres of free expression in our state,” said Brian Klosterboer, attorney at the ACLU of Texas, in a statement.

He continued, “This law flies in the face of the First Amendment. No performer should ever be thrown in jail because the government disfavors their speech, and we are asking the Court to block this affront to every Texan’s constitutional rights.”

Business owners and a drag queen testified before U.S. District Judge David Hittner earlier this week.

The law would restrict the “exhibition or representation, actual or simulated, of male or female genitals in a lewd state” as well as “the exhibition of sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics” which could restrict the use of cross-dressing in public performances, according to the bill.

These performances would be restricted from public properties or in the presence of someone under the age of 18.

This could impact touring Broadway plays, theater performances, professional cheerleading routines and drag shows.

Businesses could face a $10,000 fine for hosting such a performance, according to the law. Performers could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $4,000.

Texas is one of six states that have passed restrictions on drag performances, including Tennessee, Montana, Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota. Several of these policies have been blocked due to federal court orders.

The law in Tennessee, which was the first state to restrict drag performances in public, was blocked and ruled unconstitutional.

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