Texas anti-drag bill struck down and declared unconstitutional by federal judge

A gay US flag, USA Rainbow flag, US gay pride flag is proudly displayed in the city of Houston, Texas

Texas’s controversial anti-drag bill has been shut down by a federal judge, who declared it unconstitutional.

Senate Bill 12 would have prohibited performers from dancing suggestively on public property or in the presence of a child. 

While the final draft of the bill makes no references to drag specifically, LGBTQ+ advocates, drag performers, and business groups have pointed out that the bill was originally proposed as legislation that would stop children from seeing drag shows.

Texas drag queen Brigitte Bandit hosting a story time hour outdoors.
Drag performances in Texas are safe for now. (Instagram/@brigittebandit)

US District Judge David Hittner ruled on Tuesday (26 September) that Senate Bill 12 “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.”

In his ruling, Judge Hittner wrote: “The Court sees no way to read the provisions of SB 12 without concluding that a large amount of constitutionally-protected conduct can and will be wrapped up in the enforcement of SB 12,” the ruling reads.

“It is not unreasonable to read SB 12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation.”

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He also noted: “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.”

Plaintiffs who sued the state, drag performers, and LGBTQ+ activists celebrated the ruling.

“I am relieved and grateful for the court’s ruling,” drag performer Brigitte Bandit told KXAN.

Texas drag queen Brigitte Bandit, who brought a legal case against the state's drag ban legislation, wears a pink wig and pink outfit as she reads from a book
Brigitte Bandit commented on Tuesday’s ruling. (Getty)

“My livelihood and community have seen enough hatred and harm from our elected officials. This decision is a much-needed reminder that queer Texans belong and we deserve to be heard by our lawmakers.”

Meanwhile, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Texas said in a statement posted to X (aka Twitter): “LGBTQIA+ Texans, venue owners, performers, and our allies all came together to uphold free expression in our state — and we won.

“ This work isn’t done but for now we celebrate. Long live Texas drag!”

Meanwhile, defendants of the SB12 have hinted that they plan to appeal Judge Hittner’s ruling.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in a post to X: “#SB12, which restricts children from being exposed to drag queen performances, is about protecting young children and families. This story is not over.”

Meanwhile, Republican state Senator Bryan Hughes said in a statement to the Texas Tribune: “Surely we can agree that children should be protected from sexually explicit performances. That’s what Senate Bill 12 is about. 

“This is a common sense and completely constitutional law, and we look forward to defending it all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes.”