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San Antonio performers prepare for new Texas drag ban


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A San Antonio-based drag group is preparing to have its final show the weekend before a Texas drag ban goes into effect. Senate Bill 12 bans “sexually oriented” performances in the presence of minors and is primarily directed at drag groups and the businesses that host them.

The Texas Civil Rights Project and the ACLU Texas have filed separate lawsuits against SB12, which goes into effect on Sept 1.

Richard Montez and David Joseph Gamez are co-owners of 360 Queen Entertainment. Montez said that the group has already modified its last performance as a precaution.

“For the safety of our own performers and the establishment itself, we’ve already made changes to the show by making it later, by moving it, changing to a different day,” Montez explained.

SB12 is broad enough that it could ban other performance shows like concerts, theater plays, and wrestling matches.

Dustin Rynders, the director of the Criminal Injustice Program at Texas Civil Rights Project, said plaintiffs include Shakespearean actors and other theater actors.

“In every one of the states where there’s been litigation around these bans, the Actors Equity Union has filed an amicus brief talking about the fears that their members have in being potentially prosecuted,” he said.

The bill has three provisions. The first is a penalty for the drag performers themselves, which is a Class A misdemeanor and could lead up to a year in jail time.

“The second provision in the law is a $10,000 civil fine per performance for the venue itself. Then the third provision of the law keeps cities and counties from being able to authorize or host these events,” Rynders added.

He added that the law is a violation of free speech. “The law that was passed doesn’t differentiate between a 17-year-old and a five-year-old. It has no exceptions for artistic merit. It has no educational interest exceptions and it’s blatantly unconstitutional,” he said.

Montez and 360 Queen Entertainment have made modifications to their upcoming show out of concern for their safety.

“In our next show, which is taking place Aug. 25, we’ve decided to move it later to make sure that we have an opportunity for children and families to leave the restaurant that hosts us.”

Gamez, co-owner of 360 Queen Entertainment, said that the terms of the bill are limiting their ability to perform drag in most capacities moving forward.

“We might be in a shopping center. We might be in a restaurant. We are not opening the show to under 18, however, being that they [minors] are on the premises, that is the biggest pitfall for us,” he said.

For now, this is the group’s last drag show.

“Based on the law, this could very well end our operations. This bill really chills the opportunity for us to grow as a company,” Montez said.

In its lawsuit, ACLU Texas stated that Texans already faced harm due to the ban. “Plaintiffs have already suffered concrete harms due to the passage of SB 12," the suit said, "including the financial loss of business, threats to their personal safety, and having to change or censor their own free expression.”

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