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Federal Judge Declares Texas’s All-Ages Drag Ban Unconstitutional

The bill was temporarily blocked in August

A person in a pink dress reading a children’s book to a child.
Austin drag queen Brigitte Bandit reads a story during a drag storytime event in late August.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

A U.S. federal judge declared Texas’s all-ages drag ban unconstitutional on Tuesday, September 26, as reported by Texas Tribune. Senate Bill 12, which essentially sought to ban drag performances in front of minors, was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June. The law would have taken effect on September 1, but U.S. District Judge David Hittner temporarily blocked the bill in late August.

The bill banned “sexually oriented performances” in businesses, on public property, or with anyone under the age of 18 years old present, and sought to fine businesses that hosted all-ages performances up to $10,000. When SB12 was first ideated in March, it contained language specifically targeting drag shows. When the bill was finalized and signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in June, that language was removed and replaced with wording that appeared to broadly apply to “sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics.” However, what qualified as “sexual gesticulations” wasn’t defined.

Per the Tribune, Hittner of the Southern Texas district ruled that SB12 “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.” He also stated: “It is not unreasonable to read SB12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation.”

LGBTQ advocates, organizations, and drag performers such as Austin’s Brigitte Bandit have fought against the bill since its initial proposal. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Texas officials to block the bill in early August.

Most likely, the state of Texas will seek to appeal the ruling.

The Texas law represents one chapter in a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation being threatened by conservative lawmakers across the country from Tennessee to Florida to Colorado, much of it targeting all-ages drag performances.