Texas Drag Performance Law Deemed Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

A federal judge in Texas delivered a significant ruling on Tuesday, declaring the state's recently enacted law restricting public drag performances to be an infringement on free speech rights and permanently barring its enforcement.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner, in his judgment, stated, "Not all people will like or condone certain performances. 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."

Over the past year, more than a dozen states have taken steps to impose limitations on drag shows, with Texas being one of at least four states that enacted such restrictions into law. These actions are part of broader efforts by Republican lawmakers to regulate the activities of LGBT individuals.

Judge Hittner's ruling deemed the Texas law discriminatory and excessively vague. He emphasized that drag performances were not inherently obscene and constituted a form of expressive speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

A lawsuit filed in Houston's federal court, led by drag performers and Pride march organizers, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union, aimed to challenge the law's validity. Modern drag has its roots in musical and dance performances often held in LGBT venues.

The Texas attorney general's office had defended the law, which included provisions banning "the exhibition of sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics" in public spaces or venues accessible to individuals under 18. Violations of the law could result in fines and jail sentences of up to one year.

Lawmakers in Texas argued that the law was essential to protect children from encountering "sexually explicit" content.

Critics of the law contended that its broad language appeared to criminalize acts by pop stars and cheerleaders, and they argued that it was explicitly designed to target LGBT performers.

Similar laws in other states, including Tennessee, Florida, and Montana, have faced legal challenges, with several federal judges blocking them on the grounds of free-speech violations.