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Judge Blocks Texas Drag Ban From Taking Effect Friday

Judge Blocks Texas Drag Ban From Taking Effect Friday

Greg Abbott and a queer flag

The judge wrote that he believed that the law was likely to be ruled unconstitutional.

The federal judiciary has once again stood in the way of a reactionary law from taking effect.

On the eve of the Texas drag ban’s implementation, a federal judge stepped in and temporarily halted the law’s enforcement.

While the court deliberates on a permanent injunction, the judge Thursday temporarily blocked Senate Bill 12, the drag ban, from taking effect on Friday.

On behalf of Abilene Pride Alliance, The Woodlands Pride, Extragrams, LLC, 360 Queen Entertainment LLC, and drag performer Brigitte Bandit, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit earlier this month. According to the plaintiffs, SB 12 threatens their livelihoods, censors their freedom of expression, and vilifies an ancient art form.

U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner agreed and issued a temporary restraining order

“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,” Hittner wrote. “Regarding the irreparable harm element, the Court considers the impending infringement on the Plaintiffs constitutional rights sufficient irreparable harm to warrant enjoining S.B. 12 while a final judgment is drafted.”

The plaintiff’s lawyers were thrilled with the judge’s decision.

“This law was obviously unconstitutional from the day it was first proposed, and we are grateful that the court has temporarily blocked it,” said ACLU of Texas lawyer Brian Klosterboer. “Senate Bill 12 is vague, overbroad, and censors free expression. If allowed to take effect, S.B. 12 will make our state less free, less fair, and less welcoming for every artist and performer. This temporary order is a much-needed reprieve for all Texans, especially our LGBTQIA+ and transgender community, who have been relentlessly targeted by our state legislature.”

According to SB 12, if a minor is present or on public property at the time of a performance that could be perceived as “sexual,” this could result in criminal penalties, including up to a year in jail.

The ACLU of Texas and Baker Botts LLP argue that the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments because it could have censored other constitutionally protected entertainment, such as Broadway plays and cheerleading acts, karaoke nights, and drag shows.

“Drag has always been a form of free expression,” Bandit, the drag queen plaintiff, said in a press release. “We use our performances to assert liberation, power, and joy with our community. As a lifelong Texan, I’m sick of this state trying to censor art and stoke hatred and violence against drag artists and the LGBTQIA+ community. No one should be punished for performing drag, and I wish lawmakers would take steps to protect kids from real dangers in our state instead of trying to divide and marginalize us.”

Another plaintiff, president of Abilene Pride Alliance Gavyn Hardegree, expressed their gratitude toward the judge for temporarily halting the law’s implementation.

“We thank the court for carefully considering how this law targets free expression and threatens to banish LGBTQIA+ artistry from public life,” said Gavyn Hardegree (they/them), president of Abilene Pride Alliance. “Gov. Abbott and his political allies want to use scare tactics and bigotry to erase LGBTQIA+ identities, especially Black and Brown nonbinary and trans Texans. Our organization works to create a safe space where every person has the freedom to express themselves free from government censorship, no matter our race and gender.”

Last week, a state court in Texas issued an injunction last Friday stopping enforcement of the ban on gender-affirming health care, but Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately filed an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court, which automatically lifted the injunction under Texas law. The plaintiffs in the suit then sought an emergency order to keep the ban from going into effect as scheduled this Friday, but the high court turned the request down. The plaintiffs and their lawyers vowed to fight on.

Pictured above: Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott

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