Austin, Texas – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has appealed to a federal appeals court to reverse a judge’s decision and allow the state to enforce a law that would restrict and potentially criminalize drag performances. Paxton filed a 50-page briefing on Tuesday, urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans to review the permanent injunction that was issued against Senate Bill 12 last year.
The law was blocked from taking effect in September after five plaintiffs, including drag performer Brigitte Bandit and local drag production company Extragrams, sued Paxton and others. U.S. District Judge David Hittner ruled that Senate Bill 12 was “an unconstitutional restriction on speech” and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. However, Paxton argued in his appeal that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate any harm caused by the law.
It is unclear whether the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will accept Paxton’s appeal. The advocacy organizations representing the plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, have not yet responded to requests for comment.
Senate Bill 12, signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June, sparked controversy among LGBTQ+ advocates and others who expressed concerns about its potential impact on drag performances and venues. Although the law does not explicitly mention “drag,” it broadly defines a “sexually oriented performance” to include various forms of sexual acts and representations.
Paxton’s appeal also challenges the law’s age restrictions for attending sexually oriented performances, arguing that they violate First Amendment protections. The attorney general clarified that Senate Bill 12 does not ban theatrical drag shows that involve dancing in costume, contrary to the plaintiffs’ suggestions.
Under the law, business owners hosting sexually oriented performances in the presence of minors could face fines of up to $10,000, while performers engaging in such performances in public areas that could be viewed by children could be charged with a misdemeanor. The law also prohibits cities and counties from authorizing sexually oriented performances.
In summary, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a judge’s decision and allow the state to enforce Senate Bill 12, a law that aims to restrict and possibly criminalize drag performances. The legal battle centers around First Amendment violations and concerns raised by LGBTQ+ advocates. It remains to be seen whether Paxton’s appeal will be accepted by the court.