Hearing held over Senate Bill 12 that would ban drag show performances in front of children under 18

Tom Abrahams Image
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Federal judge hears testimony over pushback of "drag show law"
Judge David Hittner hears testimony from one plaintiff against the signing of SB-12, which would ban drag show performances in front of children.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's not often a plaintiff and witness in a federal lawsuit twerks in court, but that was among the unusual moments Monday during a hearing over the constitutionality of Senate Bill 12, a law set to go into effect in Texas on Friday, Sept. 1.

The Texas Legislature passed the bill, and Governor Greg Abbott signed it during the last session. It would effectively outlaw "drag show" performances in front of anyone younger than 18.

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Five plaintiffs are suing the state in federal court, claiming the law violates both their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The ACLU and the Baker Botts law firm represent them. In addition to the state, represented in court by lawyers from the Texas Attorney General's office, attorneys from Montgomery County, Taylor County, Bexar County, and the City of Abilene join the defense. Plaintiffs cannot sue the legislators who passed the law, so they are forced to sue those charged with enforcing it.

During testimony from the owner of drag show producer "360 Queen Entertainment," Richard Montez, was asked about the types of dancing that occur during the drag brunches he and his business partner host at a San Antonio-area restaurant.

Among the types of dancing Montez described, he included "twerking ." A defense attorney working for the Attorney General's office asked Montez to demonstrate, and Montez complied. It was a lighter moment during testimony that was sometimes heated and emotional.

Among those in the packed eighth-floor courtroom was Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas. "It's hard not to feel the weight of all of the emotions," he told ABC13.

RELATED: ACLU files suit to block bill that bans what is considered public performance of sexual conduct

"We're seeing the impact it (the law) is having now; the violence, the bullying, the harassment, that we're experiencing all across Texas, and it's hard not to get emotional," Martinez explained.

The judge, US District Judge David Hittner, said that he will issue a final rule in court on Monday. He will either allow it to take effect or stop it. Given the tight timeframe, he may issue a temporary injunction to give himself time to write his opinion.

Testimony is expected to conclude on Tuesday.

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