Judge blocks Texas law drag show performers fear will shut them down

A district judge in Texas temporarily blocked a new law from taking effect. Plaintiffs said it would have suppressed their First Amendment rights.
The House Chamber at the Texas Capitol
Posted at 9:46 PM, Aug 31, 2023

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a law scheduled to take effect in Texas that would broaden definitions on "illegal public performance of sexual conduct" in the presence of children. LGBTQ+ advocates worry a change to the law will shut down drag shows, or even make their performance illegal.

The change was originally to be one of several in Texas on Friday. Texas' Republican-led legislature passed laws that will ban gender-affirming care for minors and put new restrictions on transgender athletes.

But U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston put a temporary restraining order on the bill that would have redefined acceptable performances. 

Drag performers and other advocates said the law would have suppressed their First Amendment rights, as well as hampered their livelihoods.

New laws impacting Texas LGBTQ+ community to take effect Friday
Texas state House.

New laws impacting Texas LGBTQ+ community to take effect Friday

A host of new bills affecting the LGBTQ+ community are set to take effect Friday in Texas, after being major agenda items for lawmakers.


Judge Hittner put a temporary stay on the bill that would have become law, until he prepares a permanent order.

The stay was "a much-needed reprieve for all Texans, especially our LGBTQIA+ and transgender community, who have been relentlessly targeted by our state legislature," said an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which filed the lawsuit.

The Texas Attorney General's Office said "The people of Texas were appalled to learn of an increasing trend of obscene, sexually explicit so-called 'drag' performances being marketed to families with children. The Office of the Attorney General will pursue all legal remedies possible to aggressively defend" the new law.

The state maintained that the new law was passed to protect children.

Texas joins other states, including Florida and Tennessee, in passing bills to limit drag performances.

In Texas, those who violated the new law would face up to a year of jail time. Venues that hosted drag shows would face fines of $10,000 per violation.