New Texas Laws Face Fierce Courthouse Battles

Texas laws
Texas Capitol building | Image by Sean Pavone

On September 1, hundreds of new Texas laws went into effect, while others remain tied up in litigation at both the state and federal levels.

The legislative items will touch many different areas of Texans’ day-to-day lives. Some of them — like those preventing book vendors from selling books deemed sexually explicit to public school libraries, prohibiting minors from witnessing performances deemed sexually oriented, and banning minors from undergoing sex alteration surgeries — have been met with legal challenges.

Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) celebrated the work accomplished during the last legislative session, saying, “The American Dream flourishes when conservative, common sense policies support families and protect individual liberty.”

“The Texas Legislature is leading the nation in defending constitutional freedoms,” he added, listing some of the key laws going into effect.

However, the ACLU of Texas lamented some of the new laws in a statement received by The Dallas Express. The group is actively working to stop the legislation.

“Under these new laws, Texans will have less control over our bodies,” the activist organization claimed. “Politicians passed bills that ban life-saving medical care for trans youth, restrict our freedom to enjoy and participate in art forms like drag, and fund ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ that promote dangerous anti-abortion propaganda.”

“Our public education system will be more politicized and less inclusive,” the ACLU continued, adding, “Voters will have less power to shape how our local communities are run.”

In some instances, the courts have sided with Texas and permitted the laws to go into effect while the cases continue to be litigated.

The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act (HB 2127), which returns sovereign regulatory powers to the state, was challenged by several large cities, including Houston and San Antonio. Earlier this week, a district judge ruled the law unconstitutional.

The Office of the Attorney General provided an update on the litigation in a statement received by The Dallas Express.

“The declaratory judgment did not enjoin enforcement of the law by Texans who were not parties to Houston’s suit and who are harmed by local ordinances,” the OAG explained, noting it had “immediately appealed, … staying the effect of the court’s declaration pending appeal.”

Similarly, the law banning sex alteration procedures and surgeries on minors, SB 14, is also tied up in state courts as groups like the ACLU sue to allow doctors to perform such procedures on children.

The OAG said in a press release sent to The Dallas Express that the law is currently in effect despite an initial injunction against it.

“Previously, a Travis County District Court judge issued a ruling enjoining the state from enforcing SB 14,” the OAG explained. However, the office “immediately filed an appeal that stayed the ruling pending a decision by the Texas Supreme Court.”

On August 31, the Supreme Court rejected a separate appeal to reinstate the lower court’s injunction, “allowing the law to take effect on schedule.”

“The OAG will continue to enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature and uphold the values of the people of Texas by doing everything in its power to protect children from damaging, unproven ‘gender transition’ interventions,” the office concluded.

However, some laws have been halted at least temporarily by judges, primarily in federal courts.

For example, a federal district judge stopped the implementation of SB 12, a law punishing businesses for hosting apparently sexually oriented performances that could be seen by minors.

The ACLU of Texas applauded the ruling, saying in a statement sent to The Dallas Express, “Our government has no right to censor our free expression.”

“We’re glad the court blocked this harmful law while it makes a final decision in our case,” the group added.

Claiming the law would ban drag shows, the ACLU said, “LGBTQIA+ Texans have faced an onslaught of attacks this year from state politicians trying to push us out of public life. But we haven’t backed down.”

Despite the ACLU’s claims, Senate Bill 12 does not mention or prohibit drag shows, as reported by The Dallas Express.

Similarly, another federal judge paused the start of the READER Act (HB 900), which bars booksellers from providing books determined to be sexually explicit to public schools.

Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), the law’s author, reacted to the ruling, saying, “The law was set to take effect September 1, 2023, but isn’t scheduled to be fully implemented until several hurdles are cleared in 2024. Therefore, this temporary delay will not derail our expectations.”

The book vendors claim in their lawsuit that the law would constitute a “Book Ban,” thereby violating the First Amendment.

But Patterson asserts, “The READER Act is sound policy built upon multiple Supreme Court cases defending freedom of speech while understanding reasonable restrictions may be placed against obscene or pervasively vulgar content, especially as it relates to minors.”

“I would encourage book vendors and the far-left activists funding this lawsuit to celebrate with caution. This case is far from over,” he added. “We will continue to fight, and we will win. Sexually explicit content has no home in our public schools.”

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