LGBT student group in Texas asks SCOTUS for emergency relief on canceled campus drag show

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An LGBTQ+ student group at West Texas A&M University in Canyon has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for emergency relief, alleging free speech violations after the public university’s president canceled a planned campus drag show.

Spectrum WT student group and student leaders want an injunction issued that would allow the show to proceed while a lawsuit continues in the lower courts.

“This act of censorship is predicated on nothing more than the president’s personal opinion that a planned performance on campus ‘demeans,’ ‘mock[s],’ and ‘denigrates’ women,” the appeal filed on Wednesday states. 

“Without an immediate injunction, a viewpoint-driven prior restraint that has hung over West Texas A&M for nearly a year will continue to irreparably injure college students’ free expression.”

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Spectrum WT student group and student leaders want an injunction issued that would allow the show to proceed while a lawsuit about alleged free speech violations continues in the lower courts. (REUTERS/Axel Schmidt)

The appeal has gone directly to Justice Samuel Alito, who can decide the matter on his own or ask his colleagues to weigh in.

The initial lawsuit was filed in March of last year by the legal advocacy group, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

The lawsuit alleged that university President Walter Wendler unilaterally canceled a student group’s charity drag show fundraising for LGBTQ+ suicide prevention because of his personal religious beliefs and because drag shows are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny.”

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Drag Queen Trixie Mattel

American drag queen Trixie Mattel records an episode of “The Bald and the Beautiful with Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamo” onstage during Moontower Just For Laughs at the Paramount Theatre on April 13, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images)

The lawsuit also alleges that Wendler knowingly violated the First Amendment, when he stated in a campus wide email that said he would “not appear to condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it.” 

“I believe every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, a person of dignity. Being created in God’s image is the basis of Natural Law,” Wendler said in the email.

“Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not. As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” he said. 

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supreme court exterior

The district and appeals courts declined to rule on an expedited timeline, so FIRE appealed to the Supreme Court ahead of the show scheduled for March 22. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

The district and appeals courts declined to rule on an expedited timeline, so FIRE appealed to the Supreme Court ahead of the show scheduled for March 22.

“With Spectrum WT’s next show only weeks away, our clients and free expression at West Texas A&M need the courts’ immediate intervention,” FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh, adding the group is “asking the Supreme Court to step in and put an end to the censorship that has muzzled protected expression at West Texas A&M for far too long.”

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A representative for West Texas A&M declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

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