NATIONAL NEWS

A judge has blocked, for now, a Texas law drag show performers fear will shut them down

Aug 31, 2023, 12:39 PM | Updated: 1:42 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a new Texas law that drag show artists fear will be used to shut them down or put them in jail.

The law, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, would expand the legal definition in the Texas criminal code of what is considered to be an illegal public performance of sexual conduct in front of children. It is part of a broader effort in Texas and other conservative states to crack down on drag shows and limit LGBTQ rights.

Critics argued that the definition is so broad, it could include the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston issued the temporary restraining order after a group of drag performers and LGBTQ+ rights advocates sought to keep the law from taking effect on Friday. During a two-day court hearing earlier this week, drag performers and advocates said the new law threatened their livelihoods and would censor their freedom of expression.

In his order, Hittner agreed with those who filed the lawsuit that the new law is likely unconstitutional because it violates their First Amendment rights. Hittner said he issued the temporary restraining order to immediately stop the law while he prepares a more permanent order in the case.

“This temporary order is a much-needed reprieve for all Texans, especially our LGBTQIA+ and transgender community, who have been relentlessly targeted by our state legislature,” said Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, which represented the state in the lawsuit, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Thursday.

“Gov. (Greg) Abbott and his political allies want to use scare tactics and bigotry to erase LGBTQIA+ identities, especially Black and Brown nonbinary and trans Texans. Our organization works to create a safe space where every person has the freedom to express themselves free from government censorship, no matter our race and gender,” said Gavyn Hardegree, president of Abilene Pride Alliance, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.

The Texas order follows similar rulings against drag performance bans in states including Florida and Tennessee.

On Wednesday, another lawsuit was filed in Tennessee after a local district attorney warned he intended to enforce the state’s law limiting drag shows despite a federal judge’s earlier ruling that the ban was unconstitutional.

The new Texas law on sexual content in performances was promoted as a way of protecting children from seeing drag shows. Republican lawmakers amended it in response to criticism to remove some specific references to drag performances, but the sponsor’s “statement of intent” still cites a need to protect children from seeing drag shows, and the final text broadened the scope of what’s illegal in ways that would also cover many other performances done in front of children.

For example, it defines sexual conduct to include sexual gestures that use “accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics.” The law also criminalizes real or simulated groping, real or simulated arousal, and the display of a sex toy if done in a “prurient” manner in front of a minor or on public property at a time and place where the performance could reasonably be expected to be viewed by a child.

Violators could face up to a year in jail, and businesses hosting performances deemed illegal could be fined $10,000 for each violation.

Like Texas, Arkansas has a new law regulating adult-oriented performance that doesn’t mention drag specifically but has raised concerns that it would be applied to drag performances. And Montana has a ban in effect that targets drag queen story hours, specifically.

The law’s sponsor wrote that “the bill is not intended to stop theatrical or other similar exhibitions,” even though it explicitly prohibits local governments from authorizing a “sexually oriented performance,” according to its new definition, in the presence of people under 18 years old.

The lawsuit argues that the new law could ensnare television, movies and websites as well as all kinds of performances in addition to drag shows, including touring Broadway plays, karaoke nights, and restaurants staffed by scantily clad servers.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

National News

FILE - The sign is seen above the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab in Moscow, Jan. 30, 2017. Beginning...

Associated Press

Kaspersky to shutter US operations after its software is banned by Commerce Department, citing risk

NEW YORK (AP) — Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky says it’s shutting down all of its operations in the United States, just weeks after the Commerce Department banned the use of the company’s software in the country. Kaspersky will “gradually wind down” its U.S. operations starting July 20, according to a statement from the Moscow company. Positions […]

31 minutes ago

Associated Press

Detroit-area county to pay $7 million to family of man killed while jailed for drunken driving

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area county agreed to a $7 million settlement in the death of a man who was severely beaten by another man while in jail for a misdemeanor. Separately, a federal prosecutor announced Monday that the Wayne County jail has agreed to improve how it serves people with disabilities and mental health […]

44 minutes ago

FILE - Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker speaks at at Philadelphia International Airport, Feb. 16,...

Associated Press

Thousands of Philadelphia city workers are back in the office full time after judge rejects lawsuit

Thousands of Philadelphia city employees are back in their offices full time after a judge rejected a union’s request to block Mayor Cherelle Parker’s requirement that they return. District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had sued the city, claiming the mandate violates its contract and would harm city […]

2 hours ago

Binaifer Nowrojee, the president of the Open Society Foundations, poses for a portrait in her organ...

Associated Press

Soros’ Open Society Foundations say their restructuring is complete and pledge $400M for green jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Open Society Foundations, the philanthropic organizations that billionaire investor George Soros has built up since the 1970s, revealed its first new major commitment on Tuesday after a years-long internal reorganization, pledging $400 million over eight years to support green economic development. In some of her first public remarks since she was […]

3 hours ago

FILE - People shop at Taikoo Li Sanlitun shopping center in Beijing, China, on July 2, 2024. On Tue...

Associated Press

IMF’s economic view: Brighter outlook for China and India but tepid global growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund is upgrading its economic outlook this year for China, India and Europe while modestly lowering expectations for the United States and Japan. But it says worldwide progress against accelerating prices has been slowed by stickier-than-expected inflation for services, from airline travel to restaurant meals. Overall, the IMF said […]

3 hours ago

FILE - A holiday sale sign is displayed at a retail store in Rosemont, Ill., June 25, 2024. On Tues...

Associated Press

Retail sales unchanged in June from May as inflation moderates

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers paused their spending June from May as they wrestle with moderating inflation but still high interest rates that have made buying anything on credit more expensive. Retail sales were unchanged in June from May, which was better than economists expected, after being revised at up 0.3% in May, according to […]

3 hours ago

A judge has blocked, for now, a Texas law drag show performers fear will shut them down