Dr. Joel Timmer


In 2023, there were six federal court cases involving anti-drag laws or government denials of permission to hold drag shows on public property. All but one of these cases concluded that drag shows constituted expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. Four of the cases involved challenges to recently enacted anti-drag laws, and in each of those cases, the courts found the laws to violate the First Amendment on multiple grounds, including not being narrowly tailored to achieve their purpose, as well as being vague and overbroad. However, one court, ruling on a denial of permission to hold a drag show, concluded that drag shows were not protected by the First Amendment. This Article considers these court decisions on state anti-drag laws and the reasons the laws were found to be unconstitutional. It also considers court arguments for and against providing protection to drag shows as expressive conduct under the First Amendment, concluding that drag shows do qualify for First Amendment protection.