SCOTUS Refuses To Consider College Drag Show Petition

Students rallied at West Texas A&M University for canceling a drag performance.
Students rallied at West Texas A&M University for canceling a drag performance. | Image by David Bowser/The Texas Tribune

The Supreme Court of the United States declined to intervene in a case involving a potential drag show at West Texas A&M University.

The case, which stemmed from the university’s refusal to allow an on-campus drag show last year, is currently before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court is not scheduled to hear oral arguments until April.

However, a student organization that sued West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler last year over the issue petitioned SCOTUS for an injunction against a lower court ruling in the hopes of proceeding with a planned drag show this year, which was scheduled for March 22.

The lower federal court had previously dismissed the claims for damages against Wendler and denied the plaintiff’s petition for an injunction, which prompted the student organization to appeal.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in a press release that the Supreme Court denied the organization’s request for an injunction. The OAG claimed the organization’s petition was meant to “short-circuit the ordinary appellate process.”

“Drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” Wendler said in an email to students, staff, and teachers last year, explaining his reasoning for not allowing the drag show to be held on campus.

He described drag shows as “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny,” regardless of their intent, comparing them to blackface, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

In response to Wendler’s decision last year, a majority of the university’s faculty voted to condemn him, claiming he exhibited a pattern of “divisive, misogynistic, homophobic and non-inclusive rhetoric that stands in stark contrast with the Core Values of the university,” The Texas Tribune reported.

The plaintiffs argued in court that drag shows fall under the protection of the First Amendment, but the OAG, which is defending Wendler in court, contended that the shows were an issue of conduct rather than speech.

SCOTUS did not comment on why it denied the request for an injunction. For now, the case remains in the purview of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“President Wendler’s efforts to uphold decency and protect women from hostile and degrading caricatures, and to protect children from exposure to obscene conduct, are completely defensible,” said Paxton in the news release. “I’m pleased that a unanimous SCOTUS rejected the organization’s extraordinary attempt to force the University to host this activity.”

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