In a significant legal development, a coalition of individuals, organizations, and businesses has taken a bold step to challenge Montana’s contentious law that imposes restrictions on drag performances and bans drag reading events at public schools and libraries. Upper Seven Law, representing the coalition, has filed a motion for a summary judgment, seeking to declare Montana’s law unconstitutional without the need for a trial.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris had previously granted a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking the enforcement of the law, citing concerns about its impact on free speech and expression, as well as its apparent bias against the LGBTQ+ community. Judge Morris’s injunction emphasized that there was no evidence indicating any harm to minors arising from drag-related events or expressions critical of gender norms.
The law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled 2023 Montana Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, stands out as the only one of its kind nationwide to prohibit individuals dressed in drag from reading books to children in public schools and libraries, regardless of the absence of sexual content in the performances.
The plaintiffs argue that this law represents an unconstitutional restriction on speech based on content and viewpoint, further pointing out its lack of clarity in defining what actions are deemed illegal, leading individuals to self-censor their speech out of fear of inadvertently violating the law.
Montana’s state officials countered the challenge by arguing that no legal claims could be made since they had taken no action to enforce the law, and the plaintiffs had not suffered any harm. However, this legal battle continues to unfold, raising important questions about the boundaries of free expression and LGBTQ+ rights in Montana.
As the case unfolds, it sheds light on the broader national debate about the intersection of free speech, LGBTQ+ rights, and the role of state legislatures in shaping public discourse and inclusion. The outcome of this legal challenge could have far-reaching implications for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, not only in Montana but across the United States.