The Supreme Court Declines to Get Involved in a Controversy Surrounding Drag Shows at a Texas Public University

The Supreme Court has denied an emergency appeal from a student group in Texas who was prohibited from organizing a drag show at a public university.

The justices declined to comment on Friday regarding the refusal to issue an order that would have permitted Spectrum WT, a group advocating for LGBTQ+ students and allies, to host a charity show on March 22 at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, which is situated just south of Amarillo.

The Florida law that aimed to restrict drag shows faced opposition in the high court, leading to its enforcement being denied. Similarly, state bans in Montana, Tennessee, and Texas were blocked by lower federal courts. Drag shows have become a target for right-wing activists and politicians, with events like drag story hours, where drag queens read books to children, drawing protests throughout the country.

Spectrum WT filed a lawsuit, asserting that drag was not intended to be offensive, but rather a celebration of various aspects such as queerness, gender, acceptance, love, and particularly femininity.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk last year ruled against the group, stating that “The First Amendment does not prevent school officials from restricting ‘vulgar and lewd’ conduct that would ‘undermine the school’s basic educational mission’ – particularly in settings where children are physically present.” Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, emphasized the importance of maintaining a conducive educational environment.

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The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, responsible for hearing cases from Texas, declined to authorize the drag show to proceed or expedite its schedule for hearing and deciding the student group’s appeal.

Spectrum WT approached the Supreme Court for help as the 2024 drag show date drew near. The lawsuit was filed by Spectrum WT and its two student leaders, who are being represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a renowned civil liberties group.

JT Morris, a senior attorney for FIRE, expressed disappointment with the denial of the emergency injunction. Morris emphasized that despite this setback, they will continue to advocate for their clients’ First Amendment rights. He also highlighted that the case will proceed to the Fifth Circuit, where oral arguments will be heard next month. Morris concluded by affirming that this is not the end of their fight.

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