The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas is challenging a state law restricting drag performances. The group is representing local LGBTQ groups, businesses, and a drag performer in a lawsuit against the state. Texas officials plan to enforce Senate Bill 12, which restricts “sexually oriented performances.” The ACLU argues that the law unconstitutionally violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

ACLU Fight For Drag Rights

In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that restricts “sexually oriented” performances that take place in public or where they could be viewed by a minor. The law will take effect on September 1. Although it doesn’t specifically mention drag performances, politicians in the state have clarified that it is intended to restrict drag performances.

The law restricts the “exhibition or representation, actual or simulated, of male or female genitals in a lewd state.” Additionally, it restricts “the exhibition of sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics.” Thus, banning the use of cross-dressing in public performances.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU says that the state has now threatened the right to free expression of many Texans. The consequences of breaking the law are also hefty. Businesses that break the law could face fines up to $10,000 per violation. Performers caught violating the law could face up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

The ACLU is asking the court to temporarily block the law from taking effect next month. They argue that it “unconstitutionally singles out drag performances as a disfavored form of expression.”

The lawsuit also highlights that the law could censor several types of performances such as touring Broadway plays, theater performances, and professional cheerleading routines.

“Texas queens and kings from across our great state have been targets of threats and misinformation as a result of the anti-drag law,” Brigitte Bandit, a plaintiff in the case, said. “We must reject their attempts to divide us and continue to come together in our truth and power to support each other as Texans should.”