As citizens protested sexually oriented drag shows in the presence of minors, Texas lawmakers responded with a ban on such performances that is now making its way through the courts. 

2023 saw an explosion of conflict about public drag shows in the presence of minors. Senate Bill 12 by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) prohibits sexually oriented performances for children under 18 years old. It was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott and took effect on September 1. 

However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas sued the state over the measure, arguing it violated constitutionally protected speech. 

On September 1, a Reagan-appointed federal judge named David Hittner ruled in favor of the ACLU’s lawsuit, allowing drag queens to continue organizing performances for children. 

The judge granted a temporary restraining order against the new law and later declared that SB 12 was entirely unconstitutional. Hittner stated in the ruling that SB 12 was also “unconstitutionally vague.” 

The ruling also says, “But even if SB 12 were not unconstitutionally vague, it would still fail due to it being an impermissible prior restraint on speech.”

On September 26, Hittner issued a permanent injunction on SB 12—preventing the consequences of up to $10,000 per offense from being enforced. 

On the same day, Hughes took to X, formerly Twitter, to express his disapproval. 

“Surely we can agree that children should be protected from sexually explicit performances,” he said. “That’s what Senate Bill 12 is about.”

Hughes also stated, “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.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton has appealed to the Fifth Circuit and filed a motion to stay that injunction. However, the court has not yet ruled.

“When sexually-explicit performances marketed as family-friendly entertainment became common in recent years, Texas sprang into action by passing SB 12 to protect children and families,” Paxton told Texas Scorecard. “As I promised, my office is pursuing all legal remedies possible to aggressively defend this law.”

The fight against public drag shows in front of minors has continued outside the courtroom as well. For example, activists protested outside a Dallas church that was hosting a “Drag Sunday” to “bless” local drag performers. 

The event was held at the Cathedral of Hope in response to the advent of SB 12. The Dallas Express reported that around 40 people attended the protest outside the church. One protester even shouted, “Put down your sex toys and pick up your Bible, folks!”

The Dallas church has a history of hosting pro-LGBT groups such as the controversial Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—who dress up as nuns and mock Christian symbols and traditions. 

Will Biagini

Will was born in Louisiana and raised in a military family. He currently serves as a journalist with Texas Scorecard. Previously, he was a senior correspondent for Campus Reform.