HOUSTON (CBSNewsTexas.com) — This week, a federal judge in Houston blocked a new state law that cracks down on sexually oriented performances, including some drag shows.
Senate Bill 12 makes it illegal for sexually oriented performances to be shown where people younger than 18 can watch.
That includes public property and, in a business, there are criminal and civil penalties.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David Hittner of Houston said the state law is overly broad and infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech. “A large amount of constitutionally protected conduct can and will be wrapped up in the enforcement of SB 12. It is not unreasonable to read SB 12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation of SB 12.”
State Representative Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch) is among those who fought against the new state law. “The decision on constitutional grounds of the judge entered was the correct one.”
Johnson told CBS News Texas there are already state laws on the books to protect children. “It’s already illegal to take children into a strip club or something like that. But this goes far, far beyond that. A Miley Cyrus concert, any Super Bowl halftime show could come under the purview of this bill in terms of its gestures, it’s clothing, its attire.”
State Representative Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) sponsored the bill in the House and criticized the judge’s ruling. “Look, this is not debatable. We are not going to allow children to be sexualized in the State of Texas.”
Shaheen told CBS News Texas the existing state law doesn’t go far enough to protect children. “If you read, the bill has very specific descriptions of sexual activity in front of a child. We’re talking about simulating sexual activity, those types of things, and again, this is language that’s been used in other states. It prevailed. The judge is just making a foolish ruling.”
Johnson said she believes Republicans were targeting the LGBTQ community, but Rep. Shaheen denied that.
She said she hopes the appeals court will apply the same constitutional law as the Houston judge did, and that free speech rights need to be protected.
Shaheen said he believes the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals will reverse the lower court’s decision.
But if not, he and other conservative lawmakers and groups vow to take it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.