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Federal Judge Rules Texas Drag Ban Violates First Amendment

A federal judge struck down Texas’ ban on drag performances Tuesday as a violation of the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner, a Reagan-appointee, found that Texas’ law prohibiting “sexually oriented performances” on public property or in the presence of a minors “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed its lawsuit against the ban on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights advocates and drag queens on Aug. 2.

“Not all people will like or condone certain performances,” the judge 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.”

“However, in addition to the pure entertainment value there are often political, social, and cultural messages involved in drag performances which strengthen the Plaintiffs position,” Hittner continued.

Hittner issued a temporary injunction Aug. 31, blocking the law the day before it was scheduled to take effect. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law in June.

“LGBTQIA+ Texans, venue owners, performers, and our allies all came together to uphold free expression in our state — and we won,” the ACLU of Texas tweeted. “This work isn’t done but for now we celebrate. Long live Texas drag!”

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointee, ruled that the West Texas A&M University president’s decision to cancel a campus drag show did not violate the First Amendment.

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