Helena, Mont. — A federal judge in Montana on Friday temporarily blocked a new law restricting drag performances just days before thousands of people are expected to attend Montana Pride’s 30th anniversary in Helena.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris said the way the law was written “would disproportionately harm not only the performers but also any person who falls outside the norms of gender and identity.” traditional,” including transgender people.
The law seeks to ban minors from attending what it calls “sexually oriented” performances and to ban such performances in public places where minors may be present. However, it does not fully define many of the terms used in the law, causing people to self-censor for fear of prosecution, plaintiffs’ attorney Constance Van Kley with Upper Seven Law argued Wednesday.
“The plaintiffs, along with approximately 15,000 Montanans interested in attending the (Montana Pride) events, cannot avoid cold statements or the possibility of civil or criminal liability,” Morris writes. there is a temporary restraining order.
Kevin Hamm, president of Montana Pride, said the ruling would allow Montana Pride to advertise and hold some of its events in public places. The annual LGBTQ+ celebration — which includes a parade, street dance, and drag brunch — begins on Sunday and runs through August 6.
“The language used in the (temporary ban) is both dramatic and a warning to future lawmakers’ discriminatory actions,” Hamm said.
A lawsuit filed on July 6 challenges its constitutionality and seeks a preliminary order to stop it. The complaint was later amended to include the city of Helena as the defendant and Montana Pride as the plaintiff to request a more urgent action on the temporary restraining order. Montana Pride worked with the city to obtain a permit to hold public events.
The city of Helena supported the ban, saying the law places the city in a position to violate Montana Pride’s constitutional freedoms of expression by denying permits, or subjecting city employees to civil liability. and criminal is included in the law if it allows to do anything. A lawsuit that allows minors to attend a drag performance in violation of the law has the right to bring civil action against the organizer or participant at any time within 10 years thereafter.
The complaint — the original plaintiffs included a transgender woman, two small theaters and a bookstore that hosts drag queen reading events — calling the Montana law “an overly vague and excessive bill.” spectacular, fueled by anti-LGBTQ+ animation.”
Judge Morris found that the law did not adequately define actions that might be illegal and appeared to “encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”
Montana’s law is flawed—like similar laws in Florida and Tennessee have been blocked by the courts—because it regulates speech based on its content and point of view, without taking into account literary merit, its potential artistic, political or scientific, Morris found.
“Drag is defined as political and artistic speech,” said Diana Bourgeois, president of the Royal Court of Sovereignty of Montana, an organization that organizes drag reading events and is one of the plaintiffs. art. “Today’s court order protects our right to be commentators and artists and to create a safe, fun and welcoming environment through our expression.”
Like many Republican-led states, Montana’s conservative lawmakers have passed other laws targeting transgender people. The state is among those that ban sex-based care of minors – this is also being challenged in court. It also passed a bill that defines gender as only “male” or “female” in state law.
The law also makes Montana the first state to specifically ban drag kings and drag queens — defined as performers who use pompous or parody male or female characters with extravagant or exaggerated costumes and makeup. — reading to children in public schools or libraries, although the performances are not sexually explicit.
The judge said the law does not define “absurd”, “parody” or “glamorous” among other terms.
Morris has scheduled a hearing for August 26 on the lawsuit’s request for a preliminary restraining order, which could continue to impede the law while the case moves through the courts.
Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said in a statement: “We look forward to presenting our written response and full argument at the upcoming preliminary hearing in defense of the law. law and protect minors from performances of a sexual orientation.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Braxton Mitchell, said that for him and his constituents, “preventing excessive sexual events from happening to people-run schools and libraries sponsorship tax” does not violate the First Amendment.