A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Texas law seeking to limit drag performances in the state is unconstitutional.
Senate Bill 12, signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in June, sought to ban "sexually oriented performances," creating civil and criminal penalties for anyone involved with performances in front of minors. Critics have said the law is meant to restrict drag shows, though the legislation doesn't specifically mention those performances.
It was set to take effect Sept. 1, but LGBTQ advocacy groups, businesses and a drag performer obtained a preliminary injunction in August.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner, an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan in Texas' Southern District in Houston, instituted a permanent injunction Tuesday against the law, citing First Amendment concerns.
In his ruling, Hittner wrote the law was "unconstitutionally vague."
"But even if S.B. 12 were not unconstitutionally vague," he wrote, "it would still fail due to it being an impermissible prior restraint on speech."
Hittner previously ruled in the plaintiffs' favor of a temporary injunction, agreeing in part to their argument that the new law is vague and violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments, creating a prior restraint on free expression and an avenue for prosecutors to censor constitutionally protected activities.
"I am relieved and grateful for the court's ruling,” said Brigitte Bandit, an Austin-based drag performer, in a joint statement Tuesday from the plaintiffs. “My livelihood and community have seen enough hatred and harm from our elected officials. This decision is a much needed reminder that queer Texans belong and we deserve to be heard by our lawmakers.”
The ruling is likely to be appealed by lawmakers in the Republican state. Officials there have enacted other anti-LGBTQ laws, such as limiting gender-affirming care for minors.
"#SB12, which restricts children from being exposed to drag queen performances, is about protecting young children and families," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on X, formerly known as Twitter, following the court's ruling. "This story is not over."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas 'drag ban' law ruled unconstitutional by federal judge