West Texas A&M president cancels drag show for second time following Supreme Court denial

The president of West Texas A&M University has canceled a charity drag show planned to be held by a student-led organization for the second time, following a recent denial by the Supreme Court of students’ request for emergency action to let the show go ahead.

“Spectrum WT asked three courts to prevent the denial of their pending application to conduct an on-campus drag show. I did not rule on the application out of respect for the judicial process,” West Texas A&M president Walter Wendler said in a Monday email to faculty, staff and students obtained by The Hill.

“On March 15th, a unanimous United States Supreme Court rejected the attempt to prevent another denial,” Wendler continued. “And so, the Spectrum WT application to conduct an on-campus drag show is denied for the reasons given previously and for the reasons further explained in court filings and those provided by the courts themselves.”

Wendler canceled a similar charity drag show last year that had been organized by members of Spectrum WT, a student-led LGBTQ organization. He said drag shows are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent” and compared drag to blackface in an email to the university community.

In his Monday email, Wendler also noted a Texas law that barred businesses from hosting shows with nude performers or appealing to the “prurient interest in sex,” with fines being as high as $10,000 if the law was violated, as a reason behind his decision to cancel the event. However, that law was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in September and state officials have been prohibited from enforcing it.

In a lawsuit from last March, university students accused Wendler, the school and its governing body of violating their First Amendment rights by blocking drag shows on campus.

A motion for a preliminary injunction and a damages claim against Wendler was dismissed by a district judge in the Lone Star State in September.

The nonprofit group representing the students in court, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), would later appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit. However, the Fifth Circuit declined to expedite the appeal.

In response to Wendler’s email, FIRE said in a press release that their “clients remain disappointed by Wendler’s admitted disregard for the First Amendment.”

“But this fight is not over,” FIRE continued. “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.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.