Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Federal judge in Texas Thursday ruled that the new state law restricts pull The performance was likely unconstitutional, and he issued a temporary restraining order preventing the law from going into effect on Friday.
Following similar rulings by federal courts on such laws in Tennessee And flUS District Judge David Hettner ruled that the Texas law, called Senate Bill 12, likely violated the First Amendment by restricting freedom of speech.
“The Court finds that there is a substantial probability that SB 12 as it stands violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution under one or more of the provisions legal “The theories put forward by the plaintiffs,” the judge wrote.
The ruling went in favor of a group of drag artists, drag production companies, and non-profit organizations that defied the law. They, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that SB 12 “criminalizes and restricts an enormous range of activities protected by the Constitution.”
Thursday’s order came as a temporary restraining order, which will be in effect until a judge can issue a full written ruling. But the wording of the order indicates that he is likely to repeal the law whenever he issues the more detailed decision.
Such an order, which can only be made if the plaintiff proves that he would suffer “irreparable harm” without it, was necessary because the law was scheduled to go into effect on Friday.
“The Court considers that the imminent violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights sufficed of irreparable harm to justify imposition of SB 12 during the drafting of the final judgment,” Judge Hettner wrote.
Passed by Texas lawmakers in May and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in June, it expands criminal restrictions on public performance of sexual conduct. The original bill included explicit references to drag shows, but these were removed in response to criticism. Instead, the final version prohibits sexual gestures that use “accessories or prostheses that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics.” Violators can face up to a year in prison, and companies hosting events can be fined $10,000 for each violation.
Critics say such laws, which have been proposed or passed in states across the country over the past two years, are a veiled attack on the LGBTQ community. The music industry is watching the new laws closely, due to concerns that aspects of concerts could run counter to wide-ranging new restrictions.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued earlier this month, alleging that despite the wording changes, the new law “unconstitutionally excludes drag.” They also said it was “overly broad and vague and fails to give proper notice of what it forbids”.
“In its zeal to target mists, the legislature has also passed a bill so broad that it criminalizes and restricts an enormous range of constitutionally protected activities, including theatre, ballet, comedy, and even cheerleading,” the group wrote.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of LGBTQIA+ non-profit organizations The Woodlands Pride and Abilene Pride Alliance; entertainment companies Extragrams, LLC and 360 Queen Entertainment LLC; And drag performer Brigitte Pandit.
Earlier this week, Judge Hettner held a two-day trial-like hearing on the arguments presented by both sides. A final verdict is expected early next week.