Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Judge extends block on Montana drag ban law

Drag queens and kings march in the Helena, MT Pride parade on August 5, 2023.
Ellis Juhlin
Drag queens and kings march in the Helena, MT Pride parade on August 5, 2023.

A federal court judge has extended a block on a law banning drag performances. Judge Brian Morris issued a preliminary injunction Friday, saying the bill violates freedom of speech and expression under the First Amendment.

The law, passed in the 2023 legislative session, banned drag performances in any public place where minors could be present. Lawmakers in support of the bill said it will protect minors from what they call obscenity.

In his ruling, Morris said he found no evidence indicating minors faced any harm from drag-related events.

Earlier this year, several Helena-based businesses, nonprofits and individuals brought a lawsuit challenging the bill ahead of Montana Pride. The plaintiffs said the bill’s language created uncertainties around events scheduled for the celebration.

Morris then issued a temporary block on the ban before the event, ruling it had a chilling effect on free speech. His latest decision sets a more permanent block in place. The block will remain in place while litigation continues.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information