Senate Bill 12, signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, bans “sexually oriented performances” on public property where they might be viewed by someone under 18, or in the presence of anyone under 18. The measure is clearly intended to target drag performances, and Abbott has boasted about it doing so, and it is also “so yawning in scope” that it could be used against “theater, ballet, comedy, and even cheerleading,” says the lawsuit filed against it. There is a penalty of $10,000 for each violation of the law.
The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the law firm of Baker Botts on behalf of The Woodlands Pride, Abilene Pride Alliance, Extragrams, 360 Queen Entertainment, and drag performer Brigitte Bandit. They allege that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments by suppressing free expression. Hittner has held that they are likely to succeed in proving that.
“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.”
Laws restricting drag shows in Florida and Montana have been blocked by courts while suits against them proceed, and Tennessee’s anti-drag law has been struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court. Tennessee officials are appealing that ruling.