A Texas drag law has been struck down a second time by the same federal judge, this time possibly for good.
Senate Bill 12 has featured on this blog before. It was signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June, and expanded existing state law to attempt to criminalize drag shows in any public space. That’s not just a worry of performers in the state, it was explicitly stated in the bill’s statement of intent. And Abbott lauded himself for signing it by tweeting “Texas Governor Signs Law Banning Drag Performances in Public. That’s right.”
U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who has served since he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, ruled that the law is constitutionally illegal. According to his ruling, it “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.”
“Not all people will like or condone certain performances,” Hittner wrote. “This is no different than a person’s opinion on certain comedy or genres of music, but that alone does not strip First Amendment protection.”
State Attorney Genera Ken Paxton, who only barely escaped impeachment earlier this month will be appealing the ruling, which may send the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“#SB12, which restricts children from being exposed to drag queen performances, is about protecting young children and families,” Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick wrote on Twitter. “This story is not over.”
But in the meantime, advocates of free speech and LGBT allies are celebrating the victory.
Texas drag performer Brigitte Bandit, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement to an Austin-based news station that she was “relieved and grateful for the court’s ruling.”
“My livelihood and community has seen enough hatred and harm from our elected officials,” Bandit said. “This decision is a much needed reminder that queer Texans belong and we deserve to be heard by our lawmakers.”
Justice Hittner’s ruling makes it plain that this is a matter of free speech and freedom of expression, one of the foundations of the nation we all want this to be.