Texas Gov. Abbott Signs Bill Restricting Minor Access to ‘Sexually Oriented Performances’


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law new legislation aimed at limiting children’s exposure to drag events or other sexual performances on public property or businesses across the state.

Senate Bill 12 (pdf) restricts certain “sexually oriented performances” from taking place on public property, on the premises of a commercial enterprise, or in the presence of individuals under the age of 18.

Under the bill, a “sexually oriented performance” is defined as a visual performance in which the entertainer is nude, is a male performer exhibiting as a female, or a female performer exhibiting as a male and is wearing clothing, makeup, or other similar physical markers and who sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience and “appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”

Businesses that violate the bill risk having to pay a $10,000 fine while performers caught violating the new restrictions could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, regardless of whether or not they were compensated for the performance.

Abbott signed the bill into law on June 18 and it will go into effect on Sept. 1.

Republicans in the state, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have argued that the legislation is needed to protect children from witnessing inappropriate behavior in such shows.

“It is shocking to me that any parent would allow their young child to be sexualized by drag shows,” Patrick said in a May 28 statement. “Children, who cannot make decisions on their own, must be protected from this scourge facing our state.”

Democratic lawmakers including Sen. Royce West of Dallas have also shown support for the bill.

“I think it’s important to send a message that even though we support a person’s right to engage in drag time, we don’t condone it in the presence of children under the age of 18,” West told The Dallas Morning News earlier in April.

However, LGBT advocates and drag performers have condemned the legislation.

“We believe it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing that’s still designed to target drag and the LGBTQ+ community,” Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, told The Texas Tribune in May.

Klosterboer added that he believes the vague language in the bill will “allow the attorney general, local governments and prosecutors and police to have this nearly limitless discretion to crack down on any performance that they find sexual.”

Bans on Gender Transitioning Procedures

Texas is the latest state to adopt legislation restricting drag performances, following in the footsteps of Florida, Montana, and Tennessee, although the latter state’s bill is currently on hold after a federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional.

Just days before signing Senate Bill 12 into law, Abbott signed separate legislation banning biological males who identify as female from competing in women’s collegiate sports.

That legislation, known as the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” is aimed at protecting the integrity of women’s sports, according to the Republican governor, and builds on previous legislation passed by Abbott in 2021 prohibiting men and boys who identify as female in K–12 schools from participating on sports teams that do not align with their biological sex.

The new law also takes effect on Sept. 1.

Earlier this month, Abbott also signed legislation that restricts gender transitioning procedures and treatments, including puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, for minors in the state.

Known as Senate Bill 14, that legislation bans doctors from performing certain procedures and treatments related to gender transitioning, reassignment, or gender dysphoria to children under the age of 18, such as castration, vasectomy, vaginoplasty, and hysterectomy.

It also restricts the use of public funds or public assistance for such procedures.

Dozens of other states, including Nebraska, Florida, and Oklahoma, have introduced similar legislation in an effort to prevent minors from making potentially life-altering and fatal medical decisions, with lawmakers in those states noting that there is no solid scientific evidence to suggest that so-called “gender-affirming” procedures help children overcome gender dysphoria, and can in some cases lead to worsening mental health issues.