Student group sues after Texas university cancels drag show

Mar 24, 2023, 3:19 PM

More than 50 people gathered Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas...

More than 50 people gathered Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, to protest the university president's decision to cancel a drag show on campus. (Michael Cuviello/Amarillo Globe-News via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Michael Cuviello/Amarillo Globe-News via AP)

A student group at a university in the Texas Panhandle said in a federal lawsuit filed Friday that the school’s president violated their constitutional right to free speech when he canceled their planned drag show.

Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University in Canyon, located just south of Amarillo, said this week in a letter and column laden with religious references that he believed drag shows discriminated against women and were “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.”

In recent months, drag shows across the country have been targeted by right-wing activists and politicians, with Republican lawmakers in several states, including Texas, proposing restrictions on the shows. And events like drag story hours, where drag queens read books to children, have drawn protesters.

Spectrum WT — a group for LGBT+ students and allies — had organized the March 31 drag show to raise money for the Trevor Project, a group that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ young people. Spectrum WT has said that drag isn’t designed to be offensive, adding that it’s a celebration of many things, including “queerness, gender, acceptance, love and especially femininity.”

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Amarillo calls the cancellation “textbook viewpoint discrimination,” saying that Wendler “cannot bar Spectrum WT and its members from exercising their First Amendment rights merely because he believes his personal opinions override the Constitution.”

In Wendler’s writing explaining his decision, he said he “will 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.”

The cancellation has spurred protests on campus, with students waving gay pride flags and holding signs that included the saying “Women for Drag.” But other students have said they agreed with the Wendler’s stance.

Spectrum WT and its two student leaders who filed the lawsuit are represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, a national civil liberties group. The lawsuit was filed against officials with the university, including Wendler, in addition to officials with the Texas A&M University System.

Spokespeople for both the university and the university system had no comment Friday.

United States News

FILE - Idaho Attorney General candidate Rep. Raul Labrador speaks during the Idaho Republican Party...

Associated Press

Families sue to block Idaho law barring gender-affirming care for minors

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The families of two transgender teenagers filed a lawsuit Thursday to block enforcement of Idaho’s ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors. The ban, which was signed into law in April and scheduled to take effect in January 2024, violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection for the teens and […]

10 hours ago

Remnants of police tape dangle from the railing outside a home following a shooting in Lebanon, Pa....

Associated Press

Adult and teen charged in Pennsylvania shooting that killed 2 young boys, man

LEBANON, Pa. (AP) — Two young boys were playing with kittens in their backyard when shots rang out at a home in eastern Pennsylvania, killing both children and a young man who was the apparent target, authorities said Thursday. An adult and a teen have been charged in the shooting, and police are seeking a […]

10 hours ago

FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. The United States has announced ...

Associated Press

US sanctions Iranians over alleged assassination plots of former US officials, dissidents

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Thursday announced sanctions against a group of Iranian and Turkish people and firms accused of plotting to assassinate former U.S. government officials, dual U.S. and Iranian nationals, and dissidents. Three Iran- and Turkey-based people; a company affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, which is a […]

10 hours ago

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on April 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)Cre...

Associated Press

Supreme Court rules against union in labor dispute involving truck drivers and wet concrete

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a dispute about the pressure that organized labor can exert during a strike, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday against unionized drivers who walked off the job with their trucks full of wet concrete. The decision united liberal and conservative justices in labor’s latest loss at the high court. The lone dissenter […]

10 hours ago

FILE - Emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Kansas Ci...

Associated Press

Federal appeals court halts EPA effort to impose air pollution plan in Missouri

A federal appeals court has put on hold an Environmental Protection Agency regulation aimed at reducing air pollution in Missouri, drawing criticism from environmentalists but praise from the state’s attorney general who called the proposal “unconstitutional overreach.” Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced Wednesday that the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week granted […]

10 hours ago

Debris is spread out in front of a convenience store, Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. Rich...

Associated Press

Store owner charged with murder in teen’s shooting has shot at suspected shoplifters before

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A store owner in South Carolina charged with murder this week after shooting a teen he wrongly thought stole water has shot at suspected shoplifters two other times in the past eight years and not faced charges, authorities said. In 2018, Richard Chow confronted a shoplifter at his Xpress Mart Shell […]

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

re:vitalize

Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

Student group sues after Texas university cancels drag show