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The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas announced that it has sued the Texas attorney general over what the group described as an "unconstitutional drag ban."
Texas Senate Bill 12 was signed by Governor Greg Abbott on June 18, 2023, and goes into effect on September 1, 2023.
The bill not only protects children from being exposed to sexually oriented performances, but it also prohibits such performances at commercial enterprises or on public property.
SB12 restricts "sexually oriented performances" on the "premises of a commercial enterprise, on public property, or in the presence of an individual younger than 18 years of age," the bill's most updated text said.
Section 43.28 of the penal code defines a "sexually oriented performance" as a visual performance that features a "performer who is nude" or "any other performer who engages in sexual conduct" and "appeals to the prurient interest in sex."
"Sexual conduct" is defined as "the exhibition or representation, actual or simulated, of sexual acts, including vaginal sex, anal sex, and masturbation," sexual contact, and the exhibition of sexual devices.
The chapter called the legislation an "unconstitutional law" that "violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and threatens the livelihood and free expression of many Texans, including drag performers."
In a press release, the ACLU of Texas also said that the law also could "censor" performances such as "touring Broadway plays and professional cheerleading routines [and] karaoke nights and drag shows, anywhere that anyone under the age of 18 may be present."
Attorney for the group Brian Klosterboer, who is listed specifically as having "he/him" pronouns, said the law "flies in the face of the First Amendment."
"No performer should ever be thrown in jail because the government disfavors their speech, and we are asking the Court to block this affront to every Texan’s constitutional rights," Klosterboer added.
The alleged civil liberties organization also sought comment from a number of different performers and activists, including Brigitte Bandit, "she/they," who said drag queens are "targets of threats and misinformation."
The president of the Abilene Pride Alliance, whose pronouns are "they/them/theirs," called the legislation a "thinly veiled assault on the fundamental rights of LGBTQIA+ Texans."
A few miles north, the ACLU Missouri chapter also filed a lawsuit on behalf of a teenage boy who wanted to use the female restroom in his school. Attorneys argued that the school district’s policy violates Missouri’s Human Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the state’s constitution.
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