Texas law that restricted drag shows declared unconstitutional

ByKiara Alfonseca ABCNews logo
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Tap for ABC13 Houston 24/7 Live Stream
Watch Eyewitness News and ABC13 originals around the clock

A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction against a Texas bill that restricted "sexually oriented performances" and has been criticized for limiting public drag performances in the state.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner said the law is an "unconstitutional restriction on speech" and "violates the First Amendment as incorporated to Texas by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

A similar law in Tennessee, the first state to restrict drag performances in public, was also blocked and ruled unconstitutional.

The law was set to go into effect on Friday, Sept. 1, but a preliminary injunction halted its enforcement.

"LGBTQIA+ Texans, venue owners, performers, and our allies all came together to uphold free expression in our state - and we won," the ACLU of Texas said in a social media post. "This work isn't done but for now we celebrate. Long live Texas drag!"

The Texas law doesn't specifically mention drag shows, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said 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.

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" would have been restricted under the law.

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

Under the law, businesses would have faced a $10,000 fine for hosting such a performance. 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.

Critics of the bill said traveling Broadway plays, theater performances, professional cheerleading routines and drag shows would have been impacted.