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SCOTUS denies emergency request for campus drag show

Banning event violates free speech, West Texas A&M student group says

A West Texas A&M University student group just lost its emergency appeal to host a drag show on campus this spring.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Spectrum WT’s request Friday, leaving their school’s ban on the event in place for now.

However, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which is representing the students, said the fight is not over.

“The Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in the case next month. And FIRE will be there advocating for our clients and for the First Amendment freedoms of every public university student — no matter how they express themself,” FIRE said in a statement on its website.

Spectrum WT alleged the university violated students’ free speech rights when it refused to allow them to host a charity drag show on campus in 2023.

But University President Walter Wendler argued the decision is within his rights because drag shows are “demeaning” to women and “demoralizing misogyny,” The College Fix reported.

The Epoch Times reports more:

The Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t finally decide the issue but means Spectrum WT won’t be able to schedule its performance until the matter is resolved in the courts. […]

The group later held the 2023 charity event off campus, but it continued to seek an injunction barring Mr. Wendler from prohibiting future events including a planned drag show on March 22.

The students’ lawsuit alleged Wendler acted with a “retaliatory and oppressive intent … in reckless and callous disregard for their clearly established constitutional rights.”

In a campus-wide email March 20, 2023, Wendler explained in great detail about why he canceled the event, arguing “every human being is created in the image of God,” according to the lawsuit.

“Remarkably, Wendler appeared to know he was violating the law by canceling the show. Announcing the cancellation in a campus-wide email, Wendler acknowledged the ‘law of the land appears to require’ him, as the leader of a public university, to permit student expression he dislikes,” FIRE stated in a 2023 news release.

However, in an argument to dismiss the lawsuit, Wendler’s attorneys argued drag shows are not “inherently expressive” and universities are allowed to “prohibit lewd conduct and speech.”

West Texas A&M also has a policy that prohibits “disruptive, lewd or indecent” behavior, Wendler’s attorneys stated.

Spectrum WT organized the show as a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention in the LGBTQ community.

MORE: University hit with First Amendment lawsuit for canceling drag show

IMAGE: KVII screenshot

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.