Texas College Students Ask SCOTUS to Block Drag Show Ban

(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A student-led LGBTQ organization at a Texas university is beseeching the U.S. Supreme Court to take emergency action to block a ban of their charity drag show that is scheduled to take place later this month.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) submitted an emergency application Monday, asking SCOTUS to bypass the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to fast-track the group’s appeal after it lost Round 1 of its lawsuit in September.

The legal quarrel began after the president of West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, last year banned the drag show being planned by the LGBTQ group, Spectrum WT.

President Walter Wendler wrote an open letter to the university community in March 2023, calling drag shows “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.”

Spectrum WT wanted to hold a PG-13 drag show to raise funds for suicide prevention.

“A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group. As a university president, I would not support ‘blackface’ performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor. It is wrong,” Wendler wrote last year.

Spectrum WT cried foul, accusing Wendler of violating its constitutional rights to free speech and filed a lawsuit.

A Texas district court judge didn’t agree, denying the group’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The group appealed to the Fifth Circuit. However, the Fifth Circuit scheduled oral arguments for the last week in April; not fast enough for Spectrum WT, which wants to move forward with its show March 22.

“When the Fifth Circuit decided to carry Spectrum WT’s emergency motion withits merits appeal, it effectively denied it by guaranteeing that no decision will comeout in time for Spectrum WT’s scheduled performance,” FIRE attorneys wrote in their application.

“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 said on its website. “The district and appeals courts declined to rule in time to ensure the students can take the campus stage — as the First Amendment guarantees.

“So today, we’re 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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