The Drag Ban Has Been Blocked for Now. Its Foes Are Not Backing Down.

Judge finds SB 12 unconstitutional

Austin drag queen Brigitte Bandit and others wait to testify before the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on Senate Bill 12 on March 23 (Photo by John Anderson)

The drag ban law, Senate Bill 12, is on hold for now. Federal Judge David Hittner granted the requests of the Texas ACLU and a variety of entertainment companies, issuing a temporary restraining order on Aug. 31 to block SB 12 from taking effect.

Hittner is considering a permanent injunction for the law, which was scheduled to take effect Sept. 1.

“Our company had a performance last weekend that we imagined might be our final show, but the court’s ruling gives us hope that we may again have spaces where our LGBTQIA+ community and allies can perform and enjoy drag,” said Richard Montez, co-owner of 360 Queen Entertainment, one of several businesses that are fighting SB 12. “Drag performances allow us to celebrate and provide economic support to our community and we are asking the court to permanently stop SB 12 from stripping away our joy, freedom, and business.”

SB 12 was one of approximately 140 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in this year’s legislative session. The law targets drag performances but, the ACLU’s attorneys argue, is broad enough and vague enough to include any “sexually explicit” performance where minors are present, including theatre, ballet, comedy, and even cheerleading.

Austin queen Brigitte Bandit offered testimony in court and celebrated the temporary injunction, noting that it was announced on her five-year drag anniversary. “Drag has always been a form of free expression,” Bandit said. “We use our performances to assert liberation, power, and joy with our community. As a lifelong Texan, I’m sick of this state trying to censor art and stoke hatred and violence against drag artists and the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Montez also testified and said that Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Stone tried to bully him during an exchange about twerking. “I asserted that twerking was a form of expression and that, while some may perceive it to be a ‘sexual gesticulation’, it certainly isn't something that should be considered sexual enough to arrest a performer.”

Montez said that Stone pretended to be confused and asked him to demonstrate twerking. “My attorney didn’t object, the judge didn’t object, so I did it,” he said. “And I think I made my point. So to everybody out there who has a bully who tries to embarrass you in front of other people – take back the power. Be smart, be educated, be informed, be loving, be human. And when you are those things, there’s nothing they can do to bring you down. Bullies are bullies. And we're just going to keep living our lives.”

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Brigitte Bandit, SB 12, ACLU of Texas

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